The State of Vermont Passenger Tramway Division sent a letter Tuesday to Jay Peak Resort, ordering its aerial tramway shut down until significant upgrades are completed. Jay Peak agreed last fall to make critical repairs to the tram with more upgrades to be completed this spring by Doppelmayr/Garaventa. The State says Jay Peak has not completed these upgrades in advance of the summer season, hence the formal Order for Corrective Action sent this week. The Jay Peak Aerial Tramway was built by VonRoll in 1966 and received new 60-passenger cabins in 2000.
On April 14, the Securities and Exchange Commission seized control of the resort from its owners, alleging a $200 million fraud scheme. Florida attorney Michael Goldberg was placed in charge by a federal court and tasked with sorting out Jay Peak’s finances so the resort can be sold. Jay reportedly lost $6.2 million last winter and Mr. Goldberg is looking for cost savings. When asked about the upgrades needed to the tram a few weeks ago, Goldberg told the Burlington Free Press, “It kind of sucks that has to happen now.” He also questioned Doppelmayr’s assessment of the tram, stating at a press conference, “we’re not even sure we have to fix the tram. The company that tells us we have to fix it is also the one that will get the contract.”
Now a month later, the State of Vermont is formally ordering the below repairs be completed before the tram can run:
- An engineering assessment of tower foundations.
- New track rope saddles with a new design from Garaventa.
- New electronic controls, drive cabinets, touch screens, load-weighing systems and track rope supervision system.
- New evacuation drive.
- New controls for and modifications to service and emergency brakes.
- New carriages (these were overhauled but not replaced with the cabins in 2000.)
- Possible replacement of hangers to be compatible with new carriages at an additional cost of ~$150,000.
In addition to these conditions, the tram will no longer be allowed to carry 60 passengers. It will be re-designated for 45 passengers due to the increased weight of new carriages. Further, Jay Peak will not be permitted to operate the tram with its water tank attached during passenger operation, even if empty. Failure to comply with the state’s order will result in monetary and legal penalties for Jay Peak.
Tram carriages, saddles and control systems are not “off the shelf” components that Garaventa can ship out immediately. Even if the court approves the estimated $4.9 million for the tram upgrades, there will be significant lead time to complete them. The State’s letter makes it clear that Jay Peak has known for quite some time that tram upgrades would be needed and the fraud scheme and court seizure couldn’t have come at a worse time. Meanwhile, the resort’s website says summer tram rides are still TBD and to check back for updates.
Update 6/2/16: the receiver has put the draft contract with Doppelmayr/Garaventa on its website. Once Jay Peak makes a $408,000 down payment, the parts will take seven to nine months to manufacture and ship from Switzerland. With eight weeks for installation and testing, completion of the upgrade project would be approximately June 15, 2017.
Update 6/3/16: A federal judge in Miami has approved Jay Peak’s request to execute the contract with Doppelmayr/Garaventa.
Update 6/5/16: Jay Peak General Manager Steve Wright tells the Caledonian Record the resort hopes to work with the state on a load test and inspection in advance of a mid-June reopening. The major upgrades outlined above would take place next spring.