World’s fastest single-cable, ten-person gondola opens in Colorado

The ArcelorMittal cable arrives in Colorado after a journey spanning 5,400 miles, four countries and two continents.

As skiers flock to the famous slopes of Vail, Colorado, they will ride the world’s fastest single-cable, ten-person gondola thanks, in part, to an international collaboration across ArcelorMittal sites. To celebrate Vail’s 50th anniversary as a luxury ski resort, the developers chose ArcelorMittal to help build a new ski lift with a steel rope that is capable of withstanding extreme weather conditions at 8,500 feet.

“ArcelorMittal has sold cables in North America for 20 years with an outstanding reputation among our customers for quality,” said Marco Desmarais, sales manager, ArcelorMittal Long Carbon North America. “Our steel cables are known for offering the lowest stretch in the industry and best return on investments. We have also proved year after year that we can deliver huge ropes on time, anywhere in North America.”

The steel cable supporting the new ski lift began its journey near Lyon, France at ArcelorMittal Bourg-en-Bresse. Only premium high-tensile strength wires were selected to build the 20,000-foot cable according to the customer’s (Leitnerpoma) specifications.

In June 2012, after undergoing six months of production, testing and fine tuning, the rope was wound around an enormous reel and transported by special convoy to Antwerp, Belgium. The cargo was loaded onto a Fednav vessel called the Federal Yukon bound for Hamilton, Canada. Upon arrival in North America, the reel was carefully transported via rail through Chicago and then onto Colorado where it was loaded onto another special convoy truck.

Just 40 miles from Vail, the transport came to a standstill when a local bridge was declared too weak to withstand the 137.5-tonne weight of the 13 axle truck trailer and ArcelorMittal reel. Quick-thinking engineers installed steel plates onto the bridge to help diffuse the weight, and the load was safely transported to the bottom station of the new ski lift.

It took just five months to install the 26 towers, 111 gondola cabins and 20,000-foot steel rope with the help of helicopters, special cranes and hundreds of workers. On November 16, the lift welcomed its first passengers in a well-attended press event.

The technical name for the ArcelorMittal cable is: 6*36WSR, compacted-strand, low- stretch, unique solid-plastic core design. The minimum breaking load is 550,782 pound-force. The exact dimensions are 19,782 feet long by 2.2 inches in diameter.

The finished cable is one of the heaviest stranded ropes ever produced for such an application in North America.

The rope had to be wrapped carefully around a reel constructed especially for the transatlantic journey. This reel was 12 feet in diameter by 10 feet wide and weighed around 172,000 lbs.

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