Jan 27

Throw Me a Rope: A History of Chairlifts, Gondolas and More


It’s no secret that we love lifts. For the avid hiker, a well-placed chairlift, gondola or tram offers exciting possibilities, from lengthening hikes to getting home fast. Lifts carry us up. They shuttle us down. They whisk us to the pub at the end of a long day. Lifts offer strategic staging points and, in the Alps, they are commonplace, offering a veritable spiderweb of transport between trailheads and chalets.

It’s no surprise, then, that we were delighted when the team at Low-Tech Magazine sent the following article. Think chairlifts and trams are relatively new inventions? Think again. Low Tech’s piece suggests that lifts, also known as aerial ropeways, date back more than 2000 years.
If you like history and/or mechanical things, then you’ll dig this article. We did. Enjoy.
Aerial ropeways: automatic cargo transport for a bargain
From Low Tech Magazine
These days, we use them almost exclusively to transport skiers and snowboarders up snow slopes, but before the 1940s, aerial ropeways were a common means of cargo transport, not only in mountainous regions but also on flat terrain, with large-scale systems already built during the Middle Ages. Read more…

Image: The Schilthorn tram soars high above the Swiss Alps.
Jungfrau Trail, Switzerland|Chris Pranskatis

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