An elevated passenger ropeway, or chairlift, is a type of aerial lift, which consists of a continuously circulating steel cable loop strung between two end terminals and usually over intermediate towers, carrying a series of chairs. They are used extensively at ski areas, but are also found at amusement parks as well. Depending on carrier size and loading efficiency, a passenger ropeway can move up 4000 people per hour, and the swiftest lifts achieve operating speeds of up to 12 m/s (26.8 mph; 43.2 km/h).
An aerial lift is an increasingly popular means of transportation in which cabins, cars, gondolas or open chairs are hauled above the ground by means of one or more cables. These are becoming popular in urban environments where ground space is at a premium. Over 600 years ago aerial systems were used in China to help move people and goods over streams. During the 1800’s, the technology was improved by the by the mining industry to assist in the transport of minerals over difficult terrain. Aerial lifts are being installed in some cities to assist with urban transportation.
Safety is always a concern on chair lifts, which is why engineers have incorporated many safety features into them including lift bars (which provides the passenger with a horizontal bar to hold onto, and locking devices so the cable cannot move backwards.
The mechanism at the top of a chairlift allows for the steel rope to wind horizontally, returning empty chairs down a mountain. The image to the right is the ski lift mechanism in the resort of Tsakhkadzor, Armenia.