Backyard Ski Lift

If you own a cabin in the mountains of British Columbia what do you do during the warmer summer months? Well, we’d probably mix of a cocktail and string up a hammock, but [Darrin] is quite a bit more motivated. He planned for the snowy season by building his own ski lift. He shared the details in a forum post, but you’re going to have to register and wait for approval before you can view that thread. Perhaps you’ll want to look at the video after the break before making that kind of commitment. Normally we would just pass over projects that require a login to view, but this one deserves the attention.

The setup is essentially a very steep tow rope. 1600 feet of 1/8″ aircraft cable covers an 800 foot span of his property. Apparently he’s got a total of 1000 feet of vertical drop but the lift doesn’t cover the whole area quite yet. That 6.5 horsepower Honda engine drives the cable loop, with the pulley system seen above used as an RPM reducer. Each skier can hook onto the cable used the nylon rope with a ski-pole spacer and a hook. The RC vehicle remote control works as a dead man’s switch, starting the lift slowly when the throttle is depressed and stopping it when released.

Normally we like to link to similar projects, but so far this is the only ski lift we’ve covered. You’ll have to settle for this ski-pole mounted POV display.


44 thoughts on “Backyard Ski Lift

      1. The ski slope near Walhalla, ND used to use the engine of a WW II German Armored Personal Carrier to run its towline. The APC was still attached, probably helping to anchor the towline (and supply gear reduction?). An acquaintance of mine later purchased the APC to include with his tank collection.

    1. this is a single person towrope…not a multiperson ski lift. 6.5hp is plenty to pull a single person up a mountain and is a lot easier to maintain, store and fuel.

      also, you’re full of shit unless you post pictures or a link.

  1. Nice, I just hope that it stops pulling if it loses signal from the controler (but from the discription I’m sure it does), now he should get years of use out of it unless someone from the province or feds sees it in which case he’ll have it shut down in a second and get a big ass fine.

    1. Yeah, exactly…. Except that they won’t have to shut it down and they won’t have to pay a huge fine.

      I’m in BC too and you can pretty much do what you want, when you want and how you want, especially on your own recreational property.

      Now if he had a ski hill on public property, it would be a different story but that sort of makes sense.

    1. Or just put a sign next to it saying

      As long as the guy himself knows to disable it before he goes tinkering, where’s the danger? It’s not designed to be used by the public. A little wire fence around it would do if there’s kids about.

  2. FWIW Back in the day (1905-1930), Popular Mechanics Shop Notes described a similar setup that used a capstan bolted on the axle of a car in place of the wheel. As I recall it relied on the user tensioning the rope to initiate motion..

    Long term this is much better of course.

    1. I remember seeing one like that in Popular Mechanics too. It must have been later than the 30’s though because I remember seeing it in one of my dad’s Popular Mechanics magazines and he was born in 1934. My guess is that the one I saw was from about the early to mid-40’s.

  3. The Tav-2 is a CVT and provides first stage load variable reduction. There is a safety gate a wireless estop and a wired estop. The control works by a deadman style trigger and if you let go of the lanyard your released. but really your never closer than the 7foot lanyard to any pulley or the cable itself. It will be getting a few more guards. The multiple pulleys are to get more traction on the cable with less tension. No problem with power at all. The ride time is only 1 minute. I get the underpowered comment but it would take us into a whole different magnitude of tech to go much bigger. The gas consumption is very low not so sure with a car engine. Never mind lifting it.

    1. Looks cool, but I’m pretty annoyed that I have to log in to some stupid forum to see pictures of this thing.

      so, instead of logging in and looking at it, I’ll just make my on assumptions that this thing actually sucks and isn’t well designed.

      TO THE REST OF THIS COMMUNITY: Please don’t start doing this. For tons of people, this extra step isn’t worth it to look at some pictures, so fewer people will see your work.

      1. of course. All decent engineers assume the worst before until evidence is shown to suggest otherwise. Because the work is too difficult to access (yes, by a signup/login it is too difficult for this scope of this website), the evidence is inaccessible and therefore the entire work sucks.

        All I really want to see happen is people don’t bother looking at his work and that this type of thing doesn’t happen again.

  4. Actually the road sign was a homemade sign that someone used to identify their lane it’s 1-4 aluminum and they taped on their own letters. It was the same name as the landowner
    That other video scares me but similar it would never handle this kind of slope your hands are not strong enough great project but the ripe path scares me

  5. Ours (the other post linked to) is very similar mechanically. Great job, guys! Your pulleys are very much like something I’ve been wanting to try but haven’t gotten around to.
    FWIW, I’d wager the slope we use it on is pretty close to the same steepness (unless your hill is rock…)
    and you’re right – hands cannot hang on very long! Just wanted to clarify that you’re knocking the attachment method (which admittedly was poor last year), not the machine. The winch should deadlift ~800 lbs. We snapped our amsteel blue line about a 1/2 dozen times 2 weeks ago, until we got the remote to feather the takeoff better.
    Only problem here is not enough snow. Would love to have your weather!

  6. At times when your pulling up drop offs and things and are heading straight up for a second or so you really get to like the harness. I’d love to have a more open slope but all hells gonna break loose with a brush saw this summer. I was concerned about the rope paths getting tangled up on the drive wheel.. But seriously whats to knock? it rocks dude no competition required.

    Our biggest problem at this time of year is keeping the cable up out of the snow when we aren’t using it. We have about 4 to 5 feet of snow on the ground right now. and had about 3 feet fall this week. Look up skiwhitewater to see our local hill.

      1. Where do I start?
        The clamp that grips the cable is does not work. It either does not grip or slips and ruins the cable leading to tangles and eventually breakage.
        The mounting system for both the motor and pulley is not strong or stable enough for the tension put on the wire by the skier. This causes the wire to derail off the pulley system.
        The throttle system is also not great. It either pulls way too fast, jerking the skier’s arms, or stalls when the skier pulls. It is difficult to find the perfect setting.
        In three seasons of trying I managed two good ski days with it before it broke. The cable snapped and the vendor refuses to even give me advice on how to fix it.
        The included operating instructions are useless and there is no customer support. Buy at your own risk.
        That said, I will be trying to modify it this summer to use rope and get it working for the winter. It would have been easier to start from scratch like some of the other projects you can find online.

  7. I am very interested in replicating your tow. How can I get in contact with you for direction. We own a perfect piece of property and have dreamed to do this on it. We’re located right next to silverton mountain ski area in silverton colorado. Help us make sour dream come true!

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