Building a Rope Tow for a Ski Lift: My Instructions

Summer is here, so I have decided to share with others my experience of how I made my rope tow. Since I have some extra time this weekend, I will give you details on how I built mine.

However, I am not responsible for any injury or death that may occur as a result of reading this post. There are some crazy people out there. This post is for reading purposed only and is not instructions on how to build your own

My rope tow is powered at the top of the hill by a 19-hp Troy Built riding lawnmower. I use the lawn mower to cut grass year round and now it pulls me up my 300ft ski trail.

I simply jacked the rear of the mower up with wood blocks, wrapped the rope around the wheel, and used 2 steel stakes to act as guides to keep the rope from slipping off to the side of the tire. Without the guides, the rope will not stay on the tire.

To keep the other wheel from turning when I would grab the rope, I secured it by wrapping a rope around the tire and tightened it by twisting a stick in the rope. The fender stopped the stick and the tire never moved.

On the front of the mower, I have a come-along crank attached to a tree that I tighten and add tension to the rope if it starts to slip. The mower would move forward when cranked tighter. Therfore I had to be careful and make sure I moved the blocks as well as it moved.

I purchased 600 ft of 3/8 inch rope and spliced it together since it came in 100 ft sections. You can google “how to splice rope” and get some great information on how to do it right. I suggest you try and find a company to cut the rope in one single strand so you only have 1 splice in the rope.

Finally, the return bull-wheel is something that I hope to change this year. I used an old bicycle with out a tire to direct the rope back up the hill. I welded the handlebars so they wouldn’t turn and tied the bicycle to a steel stake anchored into the ground.

Believe it or not, my rope hardly ever slipped when I would grab on to it. I never installed a tension pulley. The only time I had an issue was when we had a period of freezing rain and the rope was coated with ice. To solve this porblem I poured hot water on the tractor tire to initially melt the ice to get the rope to turn with no weight on it. Because it was moving at that point, most of the ice broke off of the rope as it made a few rotations up and down the hill.

For pictures and more, visit my skiing at home blog.

Travis Roberts

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