Winch Project

Latest Update, February 2013:

With the addition of the second clutch, we now use the winch for sledding by riding the line down the hill and then using it to pull us back up.  It is much quicker to set up without dealing with the continual loop.  This was also the first year we had GoPro cameras for video.


Update, February 2012:

We had the great honor of having a mention of our snow winch in Popular Science in the February 2012 issue.  Between the Popular Science interview and when the issue was printed, we also managed to achieve wireless throttle control. We actually developed two working wireless remotes, one using walkie-talkies and Arduino and the second using Android phones on a hill-wide wifi network.  Both were very exciting, however a broken power supply on the first remote meant we only ever used or tested the wifi remote on our annual sledding trip.  We will work some bugs out of the remote and then see if Popular Science will let us have a full page!

Wakeboard Winch Mode:

We added a second clutch to the winch to allow us to walk the line out. With this update in place, it was time to take it to the creek for a little testing. We had 600′ of spectra and were able to use about 200′ with a body board. It worked perfectly. We also used it during the big north east flood of 2011


Snow Sled Mode:

This project started as an innocent “oh, I have an engine” comment and has turned into a really awesome project.  I first blogged about it here but decided it needed a permanent home.  The winch is now fully operational and worked well during our first major sledding trip.

The final winch set up involves an 2100 foot long rope that is spliced and will run all day long in a  continual 1050 foot loop. The rope alone weighs 70+ pounds and the winch without the rope is close to 200 pounds.

The three different shafts and accompanying gears result in a final drive ratio of 30:1-4.5:1 so it is capable of pulling three adults up a 30 degree incline at comfortable slow speeds or a rather bumpy high speed.

Click the pictures for larger versions.

The Winch

The Winch

Note the mountain bike grip shift toward the top of the picture, which is our five speed throttle control.  Also barely visible in this picture are the three pulleys that keep the line from jumping as the line makes 4 passes around the spool before heading back down the hill.

Main Gearing

Main Gearing

Here the main gearing and pillow block set up is visible.



The wide gear range is the result of this monster CVT that delivers the power from a 8hp Techumseh Power Sport engine. As the drive pulley (on engine) speeds up the discs get closer while the discs on the driven pulley (right side of picture) get further apart.

The various wires you see zip-tied to the frame are run three separate electrical kill switches that actually stopped the rider fairly quickly.  The most effective kill switch was 15 feet in front of the winch and set up as a trip line.

Glossy paint and some safety grills are on the to do list.

Current drum20140119_162554

Comments (33)

  • #1 by dude at February 28th, 2011

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    So what happens when someone gets caught in the rope and gets dragged through the pulley?

  • #2 by Josh at February 28th, 2011

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    We had an electrical kill switch on a trip-wire 10 feet in front of the winch that would stop the engine if it was barely touched. We actually had to use it several times and it worked very well. As this was the first run, we also carried walkie-talkies to signal the operator to stop the engine as well.

  • #3 by graham at February 28th, 2011

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    Your transmission set-up is genius, was that a pre-assembled purchase or did you fab it? I scored a CVT from an old nissan SUV, been thinking up fun stuff to attempt with it in my spare time. This is awesome, so awesome

  • #4 by Josh at February 28th, 2011

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    Thanks for your kind words Graham. The CVT is a two piece unit from CVTech in canada. We did all the fab work from the frame and bearing mounts. We now thinking about some modifications to use the same set up for winch boarding for summer use, so you could always do that with your CVT. Of course, I would also have to encourage you to build a Cycle Kart with your CVT.

  • #5 by Ron proctor at March 1st, 2011

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    That is one sweet build.

  • #6 by Josh at March 1st, 2011

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    Thanks, it was lots of fun.

  • #7 by Josh at March 1st, 2011

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    The hike up this hill was usually 35-45 minutes, but with the winch was about 5 minutes.

  • #8 by Paul at March 1st, 2011

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    Found you on hackaday.

    Looks like a solid piece of engineering.

    Just an idea:
    How about making the winch an add-on part of a cart?

    Something like:
    Drag the winch up the hill with the cart (snow tires?), and then replace one of the wheels of the cart with a sprocket or something for the winch?

    This would probably reduce the build time a bit because of the re-use of the motor mount and cvt.

    Over the top?
    If you can find one of those winches wich are used to pull gliders into the air, that would really take this to another level.

  • #9 by Josh at March 2nd, 2011

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    The winch gearing would be pretty wild on the cycle kart but the immense size of the winch really makes it impractical.

    Speaking of gliders, The Red Bull Winch Sessions guys are now skydiving off of a winch (and vehicle) pulled para sail, so maybe next year we can skydive onto the start of the sled run.

  • #10 by Espen G at March 4th, 2011

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    NICE! I would really love to see some drawings so I could try to build one myself. Infact – I would be willing to pay money for diy-plans 🙂 Let me know if you’re planning to document the whole thing.

  • #11 by Josh at March 4th, 2011

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    Although we had a plan and even some CAD drawings to begin, we actually just winged it on the build day. As such, there are no real plans but perhaps for version 2. Glad you like it.

  • #12 by ged at March 9th, 2011

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    I need to build a winch for lifting parts onto buildings.
    The CVT you used – where did you get that part ??

  • #13 by Josh at March 9th, 2011

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    The CVT is from CVTech-IBC ( who I contacted to find a US supplier. It is definitely a heavy duty, quality part, but is is expensive.

  • #14 by mda at March 9th, 2011

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    this is reaaaally amazing. stumbled onto the video and it got me here. this would be perfect for a backyard snowboard/ski terrain park. Just like a resort tow rope. if one was to try to replicate this, what were the overall costs of this insanely awesome project?

  • #15 by Josh at March 10th, 2011

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    Thanks, I actually have not tallied what it actually cost to build, but guess around $1,400.

  • #16 by Phil at November 2nd, 2012

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    Would be interested in buying plans or a finished product…great stuff – well done guys

  • #17 by Ernie at November 12th, 2012

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    What is the material wrapped around your final drive drum?

  • #18 by Josh at November 13th, 2012

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    We don’t offer plans or have any machines to sell yet. We are looking forward to more snow this year to finish our wireless remote control system.

  • #19 by Josh at November 13th, 2012

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    The drum is laser cut steel with 8 steel bolts. The bolts have aluminum tubes over them to protect the line from the threads. We then wrapped the drum in rubber sheets, hoping for a little extra grip, however the rubber never lasted an entire day of use. We have since eliminated the continual loop by adding a second clutch so the line pulls out easily and there is no lengthy set up required.

  • #20 by Al.Saru at July 28th, 2013

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    I think you have made a good choice with the Tecumseh engine.
    I have actually modified a Husky Superwinch to use it on a recovery platform and added a 6HP Tecumseh which is acting great.

  • #21 by Josh at July 29th, 2013

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    A Techumseh on a Husky Superwinch sounds like an interesting mix, glad it’s working well. I’ve been very pleased with the Techumseh.

  • #22 by David at September 28th, 2013

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    this is awesome
    i’ve had a bet with a friend to build something of this kind for this winter
    Any tips? Anything you learnt which should be avoided?

  • #23 by Josh at October 15th, 2013

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    go for it. The high gear reduction is necessary to pull a lot of weight, but it would need to be as extreme if you only plan to pull one adult and child. We can pull 4 or 5 men at a time. Also, a solid spool is better than a bolted spool like we used and we are in the process of converting because our bolts bent.

  • #24 by Jebb Remelius at February 28th, 2014

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    Great to have your winch as an option to walking up!
    Are you interested in talking about developing this into a modular unit that connects to a couple of different motor/vehicle platforms? There are some really nice products in the pipeline and this might piggyback on the concept really nicely. Send me your email soon ok?

  • #25 by Josh at February 28th, 2014

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    Jebb, I’ll email shortly.

  • #26 by Jeff at May 4th, 2015

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    Would you be interested in making me one of these for profit? If so, how much?

  • #27 by Josh at May 5th, 2015

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    Jeff, thanks for your interest. This winch is really a prototype and I wouldn’t consider selling a winch like this until we build a safer, production ready, second version. I have a list of several interested individuals, so I can certainly notify you of price and availability if that day ever arrives.

  • #28 by Fernando Marques at December 13th, 2015

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    I really liked your project and i am building something similar.

    i was wonder what did you used for the big “drums” to pull the ropes? I am struguling to find something “cheap” to use it?

  • #29 by Josh at December 14th, 2015

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    Fernando, I had the drum sides laser cut at a local commercial fabrication shop. The sides cost $60 USD total. At first we had 8 holes spaced in the drum sides for bolts, which provided the structure and inner diameter and you can see a better picture on this post: The bolts bent after several years of use and I replaced the bolts with solid structural steel piping that we pressed and welded into place around the bent bolts. I’ll update the post with a picture of the current drum.

  • #30 by Fernando Marques at January 18th, 2016

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    Did you use JB weld in the 90 degree joint? Is it strong enough? do you have an email that i could communicate with you for some tips?

  • #31 by Josh at April 1st, 2016

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    Fernando, Sorry I don’t check comments on this site often. The corners of the 90 degree joint are welded and we’ve never had any issues with welds breaking. I’ll email you separately.

  • #32 by Ryan at August 4th, 2016

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    This is really innovative guys. I appreciate that you share the technical details behind your build. I’m the owner of Phoenix Winch LLC. If you’re ever in AZ, make sure you reach out to me and we’ll show you some winchin hospitality!

  • #33 by Josh at September 1st, 2016

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    Ryan, If I’m ever out that way I’ll look you up for sure! Your winches look great and I really like the dual spool setup! Cheers.