Aspen Mountain’s Lift 1A shut down for at least eight to 10 days
Lift 1A, at the base of Aspen Mountain, will be shut down a minimum of eight to 10 days while Aspen Skiing Co. tries to locate a replacement part and make the repair, the company announced Wednesday.
If Skico’s preferred plan doesn’t pan out, the lift will be out of commission for a longer, undetermined amount of time while a part is manufactured, according to Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle.
“We had a gear in the gear box with a broken tooth,” Hanle said.
The company “put the word out” among resort operators across the country that it is seeking a replacement gearbox from chairlifts similar to Aspen Mountain’s 43-year-old lift, Hanle said. The hope is an old gearbox can be located, shipped to Aspen and the tooth can be replaced.
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“We’re anticipating that we will find one domestically,” Hanle said. “It’s about an eight to 10 day window to get it back on line if everything goes to plan.”
If the matchmaking effort fails, the alternative plan is to have the replacement part manufactured. That would take longer, but Hanle didn’t have an estimated timeline.
A lift maintenance worker detected some “slippage” in the chairlift while riding it on Monday and “started poking around,” Hanle said. The broken tooth on the gear was discovered Tuesday. The chairlift was never fired up Wednesday.
Hanle said Skico officials are confident the machinery remains viable even though the chairlift was installed in 1972. All other machinery within the gearbox “looks good” with the exception of the broken gear tooth, he said.
Skico is facing heat from the International Ski Federation to upgrade the chairlift and the surrounding base area if it wants to continue to host World Cup ski races. Hanle said this mechanical issue doesn’t give credence to calls that the lift is outdated.
This is the second straight year that a lift had to be shut down at Aspen Mountain during the busy holiday period. Last year, the Silver Queen Gondola was shut down Dec. 29 to 31 because of worn bearings in the massive bull wheel in the upper lift station. The gondola handles the vast majority of traffic at Aspen Mountain, so that hurt business much more than Lift 1A’s issue this season.
“It’s an odd coincidence. We’d take this over the gondola any day,” Hanle said.
The mechanical issue with Lift 1A didn’t prevent Skico from logging one of its best days ever on the slopes Wednesday.
Skico topped 21,000 skiers and snowboarders at its four ski areas, according Hanle. He couldn’t verify if that is a single-day record. If not, it’s close, he said.
Skico has used the same general type of ticket scanning technology since the late 1990s, and no other day was larger than Wednesday, Hanle said. It’s difficult to say if there was a greater day logged before the current tracking system was put in play.
“With the sunshine and everyone in town, (Wednesday) was the biggest day of the year and the biggest I have seen in years,” Hanle said. “All four mountains were jamming and everyone was enjoying the break in the snow and the amazing conditions on the slopes. We expect numbers to remain strong through the weekend, though not at this level.”
The period between Christmas and New Year’s Day historically produces Skico’s biggest day on the slopes.
Skico provided an alternative route to the gondola Wednesday and will continue to do so at least through the weekend, according to Hanle. The Little Nell Chairlift will operate and provide access to the Bell Mountain chairlift, although the slow-moving chairs were of limited appeal on a frigid day Wednesday.
“There is lift-served skiing on the lower west side to Tower 7 Road and back to the Gondola,” Skico said on its website.
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Local officials don’t think Aspen and Pitkin County residents are taking social distancing and isolation rules seriously enough, and reiterated Monday their importance in controlling the spread of the coronavirus.