Gondola operations returning to normal
The Silver Queen Gondola on Aspen Mountain will open for business as usual today after being closed for mechanical reasons on three of the busiest days of the season, Aspen Skiing Co. announced Wednesday.
Crews from Skico lift maintenance and chairlift manufacturer Poma replaced two bearings in the bullwheel of the upper lift station Tuesday night and Wednesday, according to Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle. The bearings weigh 160 pounds each and are 2½ feet in diameter, he said.
To accomplish the chore, the crews had to take the gondola cable off the bullwheel and suspend the massive piece of machinery, Hanle said.
“These guys have been working 72 hours,” he said. “It was a heroic effort by the group up there.”
The gondola was out of commission on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The reason for the mechanical failure is unknown, Hanle said. It is being investigated. The problem was discovered Sunday evening when a lift worker noticed an oil leak during a routine inspection.
Skico officials said Tuesday that it hoped the chairlift could open sometime Wednesday afternoon, but that didn’t prove feasible. Gondola cabins were being reinstalled Wednesday afternoon, and “all systems will be tested,” Skico said in a statement. The gondola will be ready to load staff for work on the mountain and at restaurants this morning. First Tracks customers will be loaded before the official opening of the ski area and then the gondola will open for the general public at 9 a.m.
“We apologize for the inconvenience and thank everyone for their patience,” Skico said in its statement. “We would also like to acknowledge and thank everyone who worked non-stop to make the repairs and reopen the gondola.”
The replacement bearings were found in western Pennsylvania rather than the southeastern U.S. as Skico initially said. They were flown in Tuesday evening via a chartered Learjet, according to Hanle.
The bearings were found by Poma and purchased from a company called SKF Industries, an international specialist in ball bearings.
Hanle said he didn’t know the cost of the bearings or whether they were covered by warranty. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were among the busiest days of the ski season. Skico typically hosts just shy of 20,000 skiers and snowboarders per day during the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays at its four ski areas. No terrain was closed on Aspen Mountain because of the gondola closure, and other lifts provided alternatives.
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