Need A Lift?

In the Swiss Alps, ABB powers first chairlift for the disabled

In Switzerland, some holiday uplift for even the crankiest scrooge. Beginning this winter season at the Madrisa ski resort in the Swiss Alps, a new, wheelchair-accessible chairlift model is in operation. The handicap and disabled-friendly Madrisa 6-seater lift is the first of its kind, and aims to offer the same experience to the disabled as anyone else, amidst some of the toughest terrain on the globe.

The Madrisa setup enables wheelchair users to come in the same way as everyone else, meaning they aren’t forced to leave their families and enter through a separate door, as with many handicapped accommodations. On its first run, it got the approval of Swiss Paralympian Edith Wolf, who described the specific challenges for the disabled in these environments best: “I’m a person like everyone, you know, I want to be free. I don’t feel handicapped; all the obstacles handicap me. And so, if you can go skiing with your family, and you are together all the time—you don’t have to go around—and that makes it into an experience. So cool, to be independent…for me especially,” said the Double Paralympic gold medalist, who won her second gold at the 2012 London games before retiring in 2015.

 

On the technical side, the model uses a few striking innovations. Perhaps the most integral of these is the use of laser-measurement and an adjustable floor level, which measure a rider’s height before seating. The laser size recognition control system lifts small children and monoskiers to the correct seat height to easily load onto the chair. An automatic locking clip allows the special skiers to use the chairlift by themselves. It also features fully automated stirrup closure and opening, seat heating, comfort seat cushions and hoods. Madrisa’s website emphasizes that it is also compatible for disabled individuals using monoskis. Maximum capacity can transport approximately five children with one adult. 

Being in Switzerland, the source of the Madrisa lift’s power is fitting: it uses ‘energy-efficient’ motors from ABB, based in Zurich. The project is the latest announcement for the Madrisa resort, which has increasingly turned its focus to making its facilities accessible to all, and it “marks the start of a major branding campaign for ABB across the Alps,” according to the company’s website.

 

“I’m a person like everyone, you know, I want to be free. I don’t feel handicapped; all the obstacles handicap me. And so, if you can go skiing with your family, and you are together all the time—you don’t have to go around—and that makes it into an experience. So cool, to be independent, for me especially.” —Edith Wolf, Swiss Paralympian athlete

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