The single chair lift is one of the rarest sights at a ski resort today. They might have you asking, “Why not replace the single chair with a high-speed quad (or a double for that matter) to get more people up the hill?”
The answer to that question isn’t simple. Single chairs are rooted in nostalgia of skiing’s ‘good ol’ days’, and these ski areas aren’t planning on abandoning that anytime soon. The reduced lift capacity also means fewer skiers on the slope and lass tracks on a powder day.
Let’s take a look at some of the remaining single chairlifts across the world:
Perhaps the most famous chairlift in the world, Mad River Glen’s Single Chair, has become a rite-of-passage for skiers in the northeast. The single chair is the only way to reach MRG’s summit on General Stark Mountain, and the MRG Co-Op has no plans of changing that anytime soon.
The original chair was first used on December 11, 1948. It was the fastest chairlift in the world (at the time), and immediately cemented MRG as a ‘top-shelf’ ski area.
The original chair was left mostly unchanged until 2007. When the new owners (the Co-Op) were faced with the challenge of restoring the single chair at a significantly higher price, or installing a cheaper and more efficient double lift, they chose the former.
Rather than improve MRG’s uphill capacity, and change the entire vibe of the mountain, the owners opted to stick with tradition. Over $1.8m in donations were collected to fund the restoration of The Single Chair, and the legendary chair lives on to this day.
The Schwebelift Bayrischzell is one the few remaining single chairlifts in the world. The German ski resort is planning on replacing the lift with an 8-person gondola in the near future. The lift provides 1213′ of vertical, and has been in operation since 1967.
In 1991, Mt. Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines. The eruption spewed 20 million tonnes of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, a layer in the Earth’s atmosphere between 10 and 50 kilometers above the ground. The haze of sulfate particles was ushered around the world by global weather patterns, and before long, the whole world was shrouded in a thin layer of sulfur dioxide in the stratosphere.
To many, this haze went seemingly unnoticed; it was spread out in concentrations that would be hard for your average human to notice. However, this haze blocked a small amount of sunlight, enough to actually cool the average global temperature by 1 degree Fahrenheit!
The cooling caused by the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo was drastic enough to show up on global climate charts. Photo credit: USGS Publications Repository
This got scientists thinking. In just under two years, the particles ejected by the Mt. Pinatubo eruption halted and even reversed the troubling human-induced warming trend. These effects, of course, were short-lived; the climate quickly readjusted and continued on its dangerous upward trajectory.
However, scientists now had validation that the injection of sulfate particles into the stratosphere could, in fact, cool the planet’s temperature. Solar geoengineering was born. Solar geoengineering involves injecting sulfate particles into the stratosphere to intentionally cool the Earth’s temperature. Solar geoengineering is now a heavily researched area of climate science.
The stratosphere, the layer of the atmosphere where sulfate particles would be most effective. Photo credit: The Guardian
Earth’s alarming rate of global warming has become an international crisis, so there is no question that solar geoengineering offers a promising alleviation of the climate crisis. However, like anything else in the scientific community, there has been much debate about the pros and cons of the technology.
An example of the type of aircraft that may be able to distribute sulfates into the stratosphere. Photo credit: foodevolution
Solar geoengineering lowers the global temperature. As mentioned above, the runaway warming climate is an international crisis that will affect all aspects of daily life – from skiing to the produce aisle of the grocery store. Solar geoengineering offers a scientifically proven way to cool the planet.
It’s inexpensive. Not only does solar geoengineering promise decreased global temperature, but it can do so at a very low cost. A mock-solar geoengineering program developed by Harvard University’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences claims “it would be remarkably inexpensive, at an average of around $2bn to $2.5bn per year.” To put that in perspective, over $500 billion is invested in green technologies per year.
It does not take any development of new technologies. Unlike other projects in the green energy and climate sector, the necessary technology for solar geoengineering already exists – no significant money would need to be spent in order to develop new technology or scientific processes.
Scientists warn that solar geoengineering could bring adverse effects like extreme drought. Photo credit: CGTN
Solar geoengineering may have side effects. The injection of aerosols into the stratosphere and blocking sunlight may have dire consequences in ways we don’t yet understand. Some scientists have proposed that solar geoengineering may alter microclimates, bringing extreme rain or drought, for example. Many argue that solar geoengineering may be a chance that we can’t simply roll the dice on.
Solar geoengineering is not a climate change solution. While atmospheric sulfates may help alleviate the effects of climate change, it will not solve our climate issues all on its own. However, solar geoengineering may buy us enough time to reduce our carbon production and develop other climate solutions such as carbon capture.
The bottom line:
Solar geoengineering could be a great solution to buy us time. It would temporarily lower the Earth’s temperature – perhaps enough to stall the melting of the polar ice caps enough for us to find more sustainable, long-term solutions. It may also stave off the warming temperatures that many fear with bring the ski industry to a halt.