Since the current incarnation’s introduction in November 1983, little has changed for the Ace Family Lift – one of the most iconic lifts of the Grand Hirafu Ski resort.
Installed and popularised during the ski boom of the early 80’s, the Family lift has long since been the old warhorse of the slopes, providing slow but scenic trips to the top of the Family run for over 30 years.
The Family run itself is one of the highest volume courses on the mountain, thanks to a gentle gradient and impressive width which make it the perfect course for beginners, children, or those who are normally better than this but it’s just been a while and so they just need to get their ski legs back. The Family run is also the lowest lift in the Hirafu area, barely 200m above sea-level and just minutes away from the main road and Hirafu intersection.
This convenient location has resulted in plenty of battling for the ski-in ski-out positioning next to the lifts by many vying hotels and ski schools in the area, and also attracts those eager to get an early start with minimal faffing about (or those unwilling to take a substantial hike uphill to the .Base or Gondola lifts).
The combination of these circumstances made the Ace Family Lift extremely popular, but there was a cost:
With demand comes volume, and with volume comes – well, waiting. Queues in recent years regularly exceeded wait times of 60 minutes during peak periods and dates, with the entire foot of the Family run covered with kids, instructors, exasperated adventurers and languishing lifties.
But all of this changes now. You might remember one of our posts from a while back that pointed out some additional activity on the Family run. Well – it wasn’t simply a coincidence. This month, the operator of the Grand Hirafu Resort (amongst other things…) Tokyu announced plans for a brand-new high-speed quad lift. With construction to begin immediately. With the lift to start operation in December. This year.
The new lifts will move at 3 times the speed, carry over double the volume of people per hour, and even include nifty technology that will make it child’s play to load and unload. The Ace pair will be converted into a four-man quad, and the lift lines (the cables holding the chairs up, not that clump of chumps behind you) extended substantially to provide room for a beginner’s area at the bottom of the slope, and to provide a more effective route to the .Base Center Four over yonder.
Gone will be the days where jostling and bustling will be required to get on the lift in a timely fashion in the morning. Gone will be the days where those poor souls unfamiliar with ski lifts fall upon disembarking, causing a 5 minute delay for everybody else. Gone will be the days where you’ll be able to finish your takeaway coffee, muffin, 7 course meal and Rubik’s cube while waiting in the lift queue.
I know – change is scary – but I have a feeling we’ll make it through and be better for it. Goodnight, sweet Ace Pair. We’ll see you on the other side.
The location of the brand-new high-speed quad lifts on the Family run. Coming Dec 2017 – We can’t wait!