The First that Flopped

Installed at a small New York ski area, the world’s original high-speed detachable quad had the right idea with the wrong execution. BY JEREMY DAVIS

The opening of the Doppelmayr Quicksilver SuperChair at Breckenridge, Colorado in 1981 is often cited as the first operation of a high-speed, detachable quad chairlift. While this lift is certainly the world’s first successful detachable four-seater chairlift, an earlier prototype operated approximately a decade earlier in the most unlikely of places—a community ski area in Utica, New York.

In the mid 1960s, the Val Bialas Ski Center at the Parkway was modest, with a few trails and slopes served by a T-bar and rope tow. In 1968—with the popularity of skiing on the rise nationwide—the city council voted to spend $100,000 on upgrades.

A local manufacturer, Mohawk International, bid $114,000 and was awarded a contract to build a four-person detachable chairlift with stationary loading. Skiers would be taken up the mountain sideways, at a speed of 600 feet per minute. A 2,500-per-hour capacity was planned, which would far exceed any other lift’s capacity at the time. Sue Baum, the local Parks and Recreation Commissioner, envisioned the lift running year-round, with summer rides to a summit observation and picnic area.

This project would be Mohawk’s first foray into the ski lift business...

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