The silver vein of no consequence |

The silver vein of no consequence

Tim Willoughby
Aspen Times Weekly
Willoughby CollectionCrews, like this one building tower foundations for Aspen Mountain's No. 3 chairlift in 1953, saved money by improvising.

When the Aspen Ski Corporation constructed the first two ski lifts in 1945-46, most of the workers were local miners. The Midnight Mine was still operating and my father, who at the time was the foreman for the mine, was loaned to the Ski Corporation for the duration. He brought equipment and other miners with him.

One project was to provide electricity. A 13,000-volt line was constructed by Ed Tekoucich, Tony Kralich and Bill Jordan. The line ran from the Midnight to the Sundeck and on down to Midway to power Lift One. For the first year of operation, the lift used a gas engine; the second year, it converted to electricity and kept the gas motor for emergencies.

The lift designers decided to tear down the mining Park Tram that followed a similar route to the proposed lift. Then they could use the tram’s cable and many of its parts. The biggest challenge was to pull the old cable up the mountain – a very dangerous project, as cable seemed to have a life of its own and could quickly roll down over the workers. Father and Eldo Klusmire set up a system with a pulley at the top of the old tram and a bulldozer below. The cable was coiled into loops at the top and then moved to the top of Aspen Mountain in a truck and used for Lift Two.

The next project employed Frank Galtizar, Mike Paulich, Alex Barrailler, Alec Betemps and Bob and Newt Klusmire, who excavated and built the foundations for the lift towers. To reduce the cost of concrete, they borrowed the Midnight’s rock crusher and created aggregate in Tourtelotte Park. Only cement and sand had to be hauled up the mountain.

One day when Father and Tekoucich were excavating the flat area at Midway for the lift terminals, Father quickly reached the bedrock with his bulldozer. The two decided that they would have to drill and blast to achieve the required depth. After their first blast, Ed pointed to the tell-tale signs of exposed minerals. After examination they realized they had found a new ore vein, one of low quality. A non-miner, a young skier from the East Coast who wanted to be in on the beginnings of Aspen skiing, was working with them. Father turned to Ed and said, “Let’s have some fun.”

When the young skier returned from an errand, Father and Ed began loudly and excitedly discussing their discovery. One said to the other, “A new ore deposit! We won’t need skiing if we go deeper. There will be big-time mining again.”

The young man asked, “Do you fellows know minerals?”

They explained they were experienced miners. He responded, “What a hell of a place to find a silver mine, right where a ski lift terminal is to be erected.”

They had him going for the rest of the day before telling him that the vein of no consequence would not stop the project.

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