A funitel is a type of cableway, generally used to transport skiers, although at least one is used to transport finished cars between different areas of a factory. It differs from a standard gondola lift through the use of two arms attached to two parallel overhead cables, providing more stability in high winds. The name funitel is a blend of the French words funiculaire and telepherique.
When used to transport skiers, funitels are a fast way to get to a higher altitude. Skis or snowboard have to be taken off and held during the trip. Depending on the configuration, cabins may or may not contain seats. Without seats, funitels can sometimes be uncomfortable for long trips, in the same way other large cable cars can be. Funitels combine a short time between successive cabins with a capacity of around 20 to 30 people per cabin.
A funitel consists of one or two loops of cable strung between two terminals over intermediate towers. In order to maximize the stability of the passenger cabins, the cables are arranged in two pairs moving in separate directions. The technology was developed from the double monocable (DMC) lift, which featured two haul cables running in parallel together. This technology was developed by the French engineering company, Denis Creissels SA, and manufactured by Poma, during the 1980s. The first funitels, built in the 1990s, were built with these two cables spaced further apart, making it possible to operate the lift in strong winds. These systems feature two tensioning systems and two perfectly synchronized motors, one for each cable. The first funitel was constructed in Val-Thorens, 1990, by Denis Creissels SA and enterprises Reel and Städeli-Lift. The second funitel constructed outside of Europe was the one in Montmorency Falls, Canada, 1993.
The technology was later developed into the double-loop monocable (DLM), which features a single cable looped around twice, as the diagram below shows. These systems only require one drive, which ensures both loops move at the same speed, removing the requirement of synchronized motors and reducing the risk of the parallel cables moving at different speeds.
The first funitel constructed outside Europe was near Mammoth Mountain, California at June Mountain ski area, built by Yan Lift in 1988. Jan Kunczynski, the owner of Yan, claims to have invented the funitel lift: there is some truth to this claim (US Patent 4,848,241), however his invention was known only as "The QMC," as it was of a quad-monocable design with vertical drive sheaves. The QMC was fraught with many problems and design flaws, including Yan's infamously unsafe cable grips and finally was shut down by California safety inspectors in 1996. It was eventually dismantled and removed over the course of the next few years.
The passenger cabins are connected to a pair of cables with four spring-loaded grips (two to each cable). Because the cable runs at a speed faster than that at which most people would care to board or disembark, the cabins must be slowed while in the terminals to allow skiers to get on and off. This is accomplished by detaching the cabin from the cable and slowing it down with progressively slower rotating tires mounted on the ceiling of the terminal. Once the cabin has reached a speed at which it is safe to load or unload passengers, the cabin is moved about the end turnaround by tires mounted on the floor. The cabin is then accelerated to line speed with a second set of rotating tires.
In 1985, the French manufacturer, Poma produced a reversible funitel in Megève, France. As the modern funitel had not been invented yet, this system was originally referred to as a DMC lift, although it uses the configuration which would later become known as DLM. Unlike a modern funitel, this system does not run continuously. Instead, the system operates in a similar manner to a conventional aerial tramway, with two large cabins shuttling back-and-forth. The cabins do not detach from the cable in normal operation. A similar system was built in 1993, in Montmorency Falls Park, Canada, by the French and Canadian subsidiaries of Doppelmayr.
In 2002, Poma produced a reversible funitel in Val Thorens, France. Instead of two large cabins, this system features two groups of three smaller cabins shuttling back-and-forth. A similar system was built by Doppelmayr in 2004, in Alpe d'Huez, France. Another similar system in Val Thorens was built by the Swiss manufacturer, Bartholet, in 2011.
List of funitels
- La Plagne: Built by Doppelmayr it runs from Plagne Centre (1970m) up to La Grande Rochette (2505m).
- L'Alpe d'Huez
- Super Besse
- Les Deux Alpes
- Hashikurasan Ropeway, Miyoshi, Tokushima
- Hakone Ropeway, Hakone, Kanagawa
- Tanigawadake Ropeway, Tanigawadake Tenjindaira Ski Resort, Minakami, Gunma
- Zaō Ropeway, Yamagata Zaō Onsen Ski Resort, Yamagata, Yamagata
- List of aerial lift manufacturers
- Lift Engineering (built the QMC funitel - a funitel that actually had four cables)
- Doppelmayr Funitel VW Bratislava, Slowakei (2002) (in German), archived from the original on 2021-12-12, retrieved 2020-01-08
- Lift-World :: Lift-Database - Funitels Archived February 10, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
- "Funitels weltweit - Funitels worldwide". Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-04-08.
- "Aerial tramway system and method having parallel haul ropes". Retrieved 5 April 2022.
- "QMC Debuts at June Mountain". Retrieved 5 April 2022.
- "Yan High Speed Quad Retrofits 20 Years Later". Retrieved 5 April 2022.
- "FUN V 75 Rocharbois". remontees-mecaniques.net (in French). 3 November 2019. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
- "FUN V of Montmorency Park". remontees-mecaniques.net. 24 March 2012. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
- "Funitel of the 3 Valleys". skiresort.info. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
- "FUN V des Marmottes 3". remontees-mecaniques.net (in French). 28 March 2017. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
- "Funitel in Val Thorens, France". Bartholet. Retrieved 21 September 2020.