The Most Luxurious Chairlift in the World

A new eight-person “business class” chairlift opened at Kitzbühel last month, complete with heated seats and race car–worthy upholstery

Megan Michelson

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If you ski in Kitzbühel, Austria, this winter, you’ll be treated to a chairlift ride like no other. The new Brunn eight-seat lift, which opened in December in the Pengelstein region, offers heated seats that are slip-proof and ergonomically designed with high-end leather upholstery. Each chair also comes with a clear plastic storm-proof shield and a locking safety bar.

Austrian lift manufacturer Leitner Ropeways built the chair over a ten-month period and brought in engineers from the automobile industry for their expertise in seat design. The seats’ leather and foam also come from the automotive world. “The goal was to combine high-quality materials, an ergonomic design, and cutting-edge technology,” Leitner spokesperson Daniela Innerhofer told Outside. “The impetus was to offer even more comfortable chairs combined with premium design and, of course, to create something innovative.”

Innerhofer says the target lift customers are ski resorts that want to offer the utmost in comfort and premium design—in other words, you’re more likely to see this lift at a place like Vail or Beaver Creek than, say, Silverton Mountain. Although Kitzbühel is the first resort to debut the lavish chair, Innerhofer says other resorts may soon follow, but she wouldn’t mention which ones.

This isn’t the first eight-seater chair Leitner has built, nor is it the world’s first heated chairlift (see below for more of those), but it is the first eight-person chair with high-end features like heated leather and seats that belong in a race car. The lift is also quieter, faster, and more efficient than standard models. Thanks to a whopping eight-passenger load, it’ll increase lift capacity by 20 percent: it can carry 3,300 people to the top of the hill every hour and gains 1,400 vertical feet in just over three minutes. 

Other Crazy Chairlifts Around the World

Orange Bubble Express: Park City, Utah

The Orange Bubble Express opened in 2010 at the Canyons, now part of Park City Mountain Resort, as the country’s first heated chairlift. The four-person lift has warming seats and a giant tangerine-colored bubble to shut out the cold and wind.

Gondola One: Vail, Colorado

A new gondola, dubbed One, replaced the old Vista Bahn Express Lift at Vail in 2012. The ten-passenger gondola cabins come equipped with heated seats and free WiFi. They’ve increased uphill capacity by 40 percent.

Titlis Rotair Gondola: Engelberg, Switzerland

The world’s first revolving gondola, the Titlis Rotair turns 360 degrees on its way up to 9,900 feet on Mount Titlis, ensuring everyone on boards gets a full view of the central Alps.

Silver Queen Gondola: Aspen, Colorado

In 2010, Aspen Mountain outfitted the Silver Queen Gondola cabins with solar-powered music systems, so passengers can plug in their iPhones for custom tunes on their way up the mountain.

Nest Express: Squaw Valley, California

Home security startup Nest teamed up with Squaw Valley in 2014 to design a custom one-off gondola on Squaw’s Funitel lift. Designed to look like a mountain cabin in the sky, the Nest Express features wood paneling, framed art, custom Pendleton benches, and a Nest thermostat and smoke alarm.

Roca Jack: Portillo, Chile

The Roca Jack doesn’t have any luxury amenities, but it is a five-person Poma lift that whips you and four friends up a steep hill at surprisingly fast speeds. Don’t be the guy in the middle who hits a bump and takes out the rest of the group.