Ober Gatlinburg Survives Fire, Sky Lift Fate Unknown

Fast-moving fires tore through Gatlinburg, Tennesee last night, forcing the evacuation of 14,000 people and burning at least 250 structures.  The town home is home to the Ober Gatlinburg ski resort, a scenic aerial tramway and the Gatlinburg Sky Lift.  While reports are conflicting, Ober Gatlinburg posted on its Facebook page that the ski resort is undamaged and the company is assessing the lower tram terminal downtown.  VonRoll built a 130-passenger tramway between the town and ski resort in 1973 and it received new cabins in 2007.  The ski area features two Borvig quad chairs, a 1978 Riblet double and 1962 Carlevaro-Savio double.

The Gatlinburg Sky Lift’s lower terminal is apparently standing, but the hillside it ascends burned with unknown damage at the top station.  Boyne Resorts Senior VP of Marketing Julie Ard told the Petoskey News-Review, “At this time, we are focused on the well-being of our valued Gatlinburg Sky Lift staff.”  The Sky Lift employs 26 people.  Ard went on to note, “video posted today by state officials gives us confidence that our street-level building is intact, but status of the lift’s upper terminal and surrounding structures is unknown.”  Boyne has continuously operated the Sky Lift since 1954.  A Riblet double replaced the original Heron version in 1991.

Downtown Gatlinburg is also the site of the Anakeesta project, including a proposed fixed-grip chondola which was scheduled to be built in 2017.

16 thoughts on “Ober Gatlinburg Survives Fire, Sky Lift Fate Unknown

  1. Doppelmayr FTW! November 29, 2016 / 5:48 pm

    so sad, such a great town up in flames…


  2. Rob Von Roll November 29, 2016 / 11:29 pm

    How is the Von Roll tram?


  3. Peter Landsman November 30, 2016 / 2:29 pm

    Looks like the Sky Lift rope did not separate but the top station is going to need some attention.


    • Scot December 4, 2016 / 7:46 am

      The rope was saved by the final act of the maintenance staff before they evacuated. I heard they fueled up the back up diesel, started the lift and left town.


  4. Peter Landsman December 3, 2016 / 7:38 am

    Here’s another one.

    Boyne might be able to get away with replacing only the top tension station but this winter would also be a great opportunity to swap the whole lift for a modern triple or quad while the town is rebuilding. I believe the old Millicent double from Brighton is still in storage too.

    Boyne sure has had more than their fair share of unfortunate lift-ending incidents lately. The Big Sky Gondola, Spillway, High Campbell, King Pine, Spruce Peak, Challenger and now the Sky Lift.


  5. Doppelmayr FTW! December 3, 2016 / 9:02 am

    They don’t want to replace it with a new lift. The lift is historic and installing a modern lift would ruin its appeal to many.


  6. Peter Landsman December 5, 2016 / 5:29 pm

    Maury County Office of Emergency Management Director Tom Blackwood was quoted in the Columbia, SC paper: “the Gatlinburg Sky Lift was also damaged in the flames, and the famous ski lift’s cable could potentially snap causing damage to surrounding structures.”


  7. Jonathan December 8, 2016 / 7:35 pm

    Video of top terminal area … platform is ashes, and there was enough fire to burn off all the paint from the structure …


  8. Jonathan December 9, 2016 / 1:47 pm

    News reports today say Boyne hopes to reopen mid to late spring, they are still investigating the extent of damage (and a repair/replace question) … there was apparently heat damage on the upper portion of the lift in addition to the rather obviously damaged top terminal.

    It’s a Riblet though, and there are Riblet parts out there …


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