The safety standard for ski chair lifts, as well as other aerial passenger ropeways and tows, has been revised. The current version is ANSI B77.1-2017 – Passenger Ropeways – Aerial Tramways, Aerial Lifts, Surface Lifts, Tows and Conveyors – Safety Standard.
While not as actively used as cars, planes, or trains, passenger ropeways are an incredibly useful means of transport, and they can be found in almost all ski resorts for the purposes of carrying slopeside patrons to higher elevations. However, their usage extends beyond these winter retreats, as gondolas and other ropeways provide accessibility with efficiency and reliability in locations throughout the world.
Passenger ropeways have been used as far back as the 17th Century, but their modern capabilities owe much to the development of metal cable by Wilhelm Albert in 1831. Of course, the modern ski lift didn’t appear until some time after this, in 1936, at Idaho’s Sun Valley, when railway magnate William Averell Harriman desired a method “of lifting skiers 2,000 feet above the valley floor.”
In the two decades that followed the emergence of the chair lift, the industry dealings with recreational passenger transportation had reached such proportions that safeguards were needed. This birthed the ANSI B77 Committee in 1956 and led to the first publication of ANSI B77.1 in 1960. Since then, there have been ten revisions.
ANSI B77.1-2017, an American National Standard developed by the National Ski Area Association and submitted for approval to ANSI by the ASC B77 on Aerial Passenger Ropeways, establishes standard guidelines for the design, manufacture, construction, operation, and maintenance of passenger ropeways. This includes several main categories of passenger ropeways: aerial tramways (single and double reversible), aerial lifts (detachable lifts, chair lifts, and similar equipment), surface lifts (T-bars, J-bars, platter lifts, and similar equipment), tows (wire rope and fiber rope tows, and conveyors.
The ANSI B77.1-2017 standard seeks to reflect the current state-of-the-art in passenger ropeway design, operation, and maintenance, which will, in turn, be acceptable for adoption by government agencies and others. The document is broken up into seven main parts that each address a different category of passenger ropeway that is covered by its scope. In each of these sections, the standard covers specifications and guidelines for design and installation, electrical design and installation, and operation and maintenance, while considering a multitude of factors, such as location (with influences like icing, wind action, and ski slopes), clearances, and speed.
These safety considerations, while limiting the ways in which one can design and operate a ski lift, gondola, or other passenger ropeway, strive to enhance the initial goal of efficiency in ski resorts that was first pursued with the establishment of the chair lift back in 1936. For the purposes of design, a passenger is considered as having a minimum average weight of 170 pounds, in accordance with the ANSI B77.1-2017 standard.
Please note that in addition to these primary sections, ANSI B77.1-2017 features seven normative annexes, on wire rope and strand requirements (A), loading conveyers (C), signs (D), control button colors (E), internal combustion engines and fuel handling (F), welded link chains (G), and safety-related control function performance (J) that are considered part of the standard, as well as three informative annexes on measuring the diameter and formulas for calculating broken wires (B), roller and leaf chains (H), and SI conversion factors (I) that are not considered part of the standard.
ANSI B77.1-2017 – Passenger Ropeways – Aerial Tramways, Aerial Lifts, Surface Lifts, Tows and Conveyors – Safety Standard is available on the ANSI Webstore.