Power outage strands skiers on S’mass lift | AspenTimes.com

Power outage strands skiers on S’mass lift

Eben Harrell
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A two-hour power outage hit Snowmass yesterday, stranding skiers and snowboarders on one chair lift for a half hour.

While the outage caused only a brief interruption to most of the ski area’s other chair lifts, passengers on the Elk Camp lift were stranded for 30 minutes.

Around 1:30 p.m. a transformer at the top of Wood Road belonging to the Holy Cross power company malfunctioned. A transformer takes voltage from the company’s main line and converts it to a lower voltage that can be used in homes and businesses.

Tom Grange, a Holy Cross technician, said the malfunction left parts of Snowmass, some of the ski area and an area by Buttermilk powerless until 3:30 p.m., when technicians managed to reroute power. A new transformer was to be installed this morning.

Jeff Hanle, spokesman for the Aspen Skiing Co., said all lifts at Snowmass except Fanny Hill and Coney Glade lost power. Emergency brakes immediately engaged to stop the lifts from sliding backward.

The lifts’ auxiliary power systems, which run from a diesel engine, were engaged. The auxiliary power systems were operational on all lifts except Elk Camp within 10 minutes of the incident.

“For most of the passengers, the lifts stopped just like it would if someone was having trouble getting on the lift,” Hanle said. “Within two to 10 minutes, the lifts were running as normal through diesel power.”

Due to concerns of the stress on diesel engines at high altitude, Skico loaded every third chair while using auxiliary power.

On Elk Camp, technicians were unable to engage the diesel motor for 30 minutes. In response, Skico provided affected passengers with drink coupons after the lift was fixed. No evacuations were made.

Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com