Steamboat Gondola to Reopen Tomorrow

The Steamboat Gondola will once again carry guests Thursday morning, ten days after a gearbox issue halted operation of the brand new lift.  Through a holiday week and major snowstorms, teams worked diligently to make repairs including new parts shipped from Europe.  During the downtime, the Christie Peak and Thunderhead Express lifts provided access to terrain normally serviced by the gondola.

Doppelmayr would like to apologize to the Steamboat community for the interruption in service on the gondola, which was caused by a failure of the main gearbox after only two days of public operation. The backup systems functioned properly and the Steamboat team reacted quickly and appropriately after the gearbox failure. Our technicians and engineers worked around the clock with Steamboat personnel and technical experts from Germany, Austria and Canada, to replace the failed gearbox and associated components. We also took additional steps to improve the overall design and brought in a technical expert to eliminate vibration that contributed to the original failure. We have conducted numerous tests and are happy to report that the gondola will return to service on Thursday. We offer a sincere thanks to Rob Perlman, Dave Hunter and Kurt Castor, and to the Steamboat community for their patience and support. We are confident and proud of the Steamboat gondola and look forward to years of use for skiers and snowboarders.

– Mark Bee, President, Doppelmayr USA

The new Steamboat Gondola is the product of a two part, $15+ million replacement project.  This past summer, upgrades included new level walk-in cabins, grips, hangers, controls, tensioning systems, drive equipment, towers, line gear and parking.  With the number of cabins increased to 137 and line speed pushed to six meters a second, travel time to Thunderhead Lodge is now under ten minutes.  Capacity has increased by 38 percent versus the previous Silver Bullet Gondola.

Sometimes setbacks happen, especially with large scale projects such as this one.  As the video above demonstrates, lifts are built by teams of dedicated people.  I look forward to being one of the thousands to enjoy the new gondola in the coming weeks thanks to their hard work.

Cabin Falls From a Gondola in Switzerland

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No one was injured when a downbound cabin detached from a haul rope near the Swiss town of Schwyz this morning.  The empty gondola fell some 60 feet into a pasture and was heavily damaged.  Approximately 50 people in other carriers were brought into stations normally and the gondola was closed.  It appears the incident happened at or near one of the lift’s 16 towers.

The gondola is a 2014 Garaventa model with CWA Omega cabins and torsion grips.  An investigation will be undertaken by the Swiss Transportation Safety Board.  The company which operates the lift, Rotenfluebahn Mythenregion AG, says it will not reopen the system until it is cleared to do so and the rope is inspected for damage.

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Doppelmayr Worldbook entry for the affected lift.

Update 10/21: The operator issued a statement blaming the accident on high wind.  The affected cabin collided with the tower before falling.  The installation was already in the process of being cleared of riders when the incident occurred, a process which takes 20 minutes.  The gondola remains temporarily closed.

Disney Skyliner Closed Following Partial Evacuation

An in-station collision on the Epcot line of the Disney Skyliner caused a stop that left people stuck in gondolas for more than two hours Saturday night and led to a partial evacuation.

The first tweet about the situation at Walt Disney World Resort appeared at 8:43 pm eastern time, followed by pictures of stacked cabins in one of the outgoing sections of the Riviera Resort angle station.  Riviera is the second of four stations on the longest Skyliner line, which links Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort to Epcot’s International Gateway.

The unfortunate incident happened just a week after the gondola system opened to the public.  Crews practiced repeatedly in the months prior to launch for such a scenario.  Each cabin is equipped with two way communications, emergency supplies and water.

As of 9:30, Reedy Creek Fire Department trucks and specialized lifts were being used to evacuate people from a few cabins.  The Epcot line passes over a narrow body of water plus multiple roads and buildings, necessitating a variety of rescue equipment.  The shorter Hollywood Studios and Pop Century/Art of Animation lines were unaffected but unloaded as a precaution.

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Sea to Sky Gondola Posts a Recovery Update

A month after someone brazenly sabotaged the Sea to Sky Gondola by cutting its haul rope, cleanup is nearly complete with a rebuilding plan in place.  “After a massive effort by our incredible operations team, and partners at Rocky Mountain Lift Services, Doppelmayr and Black Tusk Helicopters, we have removed all of the cabins, pieces of the damaged cable, and have secured the main cable,” the company wrote on Facebook this morning. “Thanks to our friends at Whistler Blackcomb, Inter-Mtn Testing and Windfirm Tree Services for their assistance in making this happen.”  A remarkable video of the process shows cabins being carefully extracted from the lift line and surrounding forest before being flown to the gondola’s parking lot.
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Delivery of a new haul rope from Europe is expected next month and an order of new cabins will follow.  Work continues under the gondola and upper mountain hiking trails remain closed for now.
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The gondola base area including Basecamp Cafe, guest services and retail store reopened last week along with a trail to Shannon Falls and the Stawamus Chief.  “We are still anticipating an early spring 2020 reopening and would like to thank everyone for their patience and support,” says the Sea to Sky team.
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Police have not issued any updates since confirming the intentional nature of the cut on August 23rd.  Anyone with information regarding this crime is asked to call 604-892-6122.  Alternatively, anonymous tips can be provided through Metro Vancouver Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

Disaster Strikes the Sea to Sky Gondola

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Photo credit: Kirby Brown via Squamish Chief

Something terrible happened to the Sea to Sky Gondola overnight and police say it was likely an intentional act.  General Manager Kirby Brown told the Squamish Chief that a worker heard a loud noise around 4:30 am and later found gondola cabins on the ground.  “We’re just in the early moments of investigating how that could possibly happen,” he told the newspaper.  “Certainly, early indications are that there was no environmental or maintenance mechanism that could have caused it.  It points toward a conclusion that somebody interfered with the lift.”

No one was on the 7,000 foot long gondola at the time.  The Doppelmayr eight passenger installation opened in May 2014 to carry sightseers and hikers above Howe Sound near Squamish, British Columbia.  Not everyone was happy about the project when first proposed due to its proximity to the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park.  The gondola proved popular, however, and just this spring more cabins were added to bring the total number to 31.

At a 3:00 pm press conference, Kara Triance with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said a criminal investigation is underway.  “At this time we believe the cables were cut and this was a deliberate act of vandalism,” she said.  The 52 millimeter haul rope was completely severed and the majority of cabins crashed to the ground.  Teams are attempting to survey the entire lift line for clues and are asking the public to stay away.  Technical Safety BC and Doppelmayr are also assisting with the investigation.  Anyone with information on this crime is asked to call the RCMP at 604-892-6100.

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Wind Blamed for Occupied Chair Falling in Australia

A lone skier was only slightly injured when the quad chair he was riding detached and fell some thirty feet near the top terminal of the Gunbarrel Express at Thredbo earlier today.  In a statement, the resort says the incident was isolated to one chair and the result of high winds.  According to the Canberra Times, the region recorded a maximum gust of nearly 70 miles per hour Monday.

Gunbarrel is a 1988 Doppelmayr detachable quad with DS grips.  The lift traverses more than 5,500 feet of intermediate and advanced terrain with a capacity of 2,800 skiers per hour.

It’s already Tuesday in Australia and Gunbarrel remains on standby while other lifts are currently open.

Vail’s Eagle Bahn Gondola Reopens Following Tower Issue

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Photo credit: CBS Denver

The Eagle Bahn Gondola on Vail Mountain is carrying guests again this afternoon following a nearly six day closure.  Approximately one hour before it was scheduled to open to the public last Wednesday, a monitoring system alerted Vail lift mechanics to a tower joint problem.  Seventy four employees riding the lift at the time were brought down by rope over several hours.   The Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board and Vail Associates were in constant contact following the incident and throughout the repair process according to spokesman Lee Rasizer.  “Repairs have since been completed,” he said in a statement this afternoon.

“The resort worked diligently with lift specialists and experts to resolve the issue,” said Vail Resorts Communications Manager Jessie Vandenhouten in a separate release. “Vail places the highest value on the safety of its employees and guests and extends its apologies to those who were inconvenienced by this event.”

The CPTSB noted it conducted two inspections of Eagle Bahn within the last nine months – a licensing inspection on November 3rd, 2018 and an unannounced visit on February 15th of this year.  All necessary corrections were completed by the ski area stemming from those two inspections.

The gondola was built in 1996 by Garaventa CTEC utilizing 12 passenger CWA X model cabins.  Eagle Bahn operates not only for skiers and sightseers but also for Vail’s Epic Discovery summer program at Eagle’s Nest.  Gondola One in Vail Village provided mountain access together with shuttle buses during the extended Eagle Bahn closure on a busy holiday weekend.

Fatal Gondola Maintenance Accident in Switzerland

One worker was killed and six were injured this morning while performing maintenance work on an eight passenger gondola at the Swiss ski resort Engelberg-Titlis.  The three most seriously hurt were transported to the hospital by helicopter.  Cabins were not on the line and no guests were involved.  The lift, called Engelberg-Trübsee, was built by Garaventa in 2015 and is operated by Bergbahnen Engelberg-Trübsee-Titlis AG.

Nineteen people were working on a routine haul rope splicing project at the time of the accident.  The man who lost his life had worked for the resort firm for over 20 years.  “It’s the darkest day in our company’s history,” said Chairman of the Board Hans Wicki at a press conference.  “The deceased had many years of experience with maintenance and loved the work,” he continued.

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Doppelmayr-Garaventa annual book entry for the Engelberg-Trübsee gondola lift, left.

An investigation into the accident will be performed by the Forensic Science Institute Zurich and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research.

Another Lift Catches Fire in Europe

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Photo credit: La République des Pyrénées

For the third time in four months, a major European lift has been knocked out of service by fire, this time in the Pyrenees of France.  A Doppelmayr six pack called “Le Family” ignited Monday evening at a mid-sized ski resort called La Pierre-Saint-Martin.  The station that burned is the return and included a parking facility for all 80 chairs.  The mile long lift cost €7 million to build back in 2014.  Like many lifts in France, much of the terminal was clad with wood.  Due to the intensity of the fire, the haul rope appears to have snapped with chairs on the line.  Thankfully, no one was injured as the lift had already closed for the day when the fire started.

Around 40 percent of the ski area is now inaccessible, though the rest of the mountain will remain open.  The caused of the fire is still under investigation.  Back in September, a fire destroyed two aerial tramways near Chamonix and on December 3rd, a blaze damaged the bottom terminal of a 10 passenger gondola in Zillertal, Austria.

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Photo credit: Quentin Top

Runaway Equipment Damages the Zugspitze Cable Car

An ugly scene on the Zugspitze.  Photo credit: Kreisbote.de

This is not a good week for tramways in Europe.  An incident last night on the highest mountain in Germany severely damaged one of two Eibsee Cable Car cabins during a practice exercise.  Apparently a rescue carrier broke loose due to a broken chain hoist and crashed into the 120 passenger tramway cabin below at high speed.  Like with the fire at a French tram on Tuesday, the lift was free of passengers and luckily no one was injured.  A Zugspitze spokesperson says the Garaventa-built tram will be out of service until further notice.

The lift became the pinnacle of ropeway technology when it opened last December, breaking world records for the tallest lattice tower (416 feet), longest ropeway span (10,541 feet) and highest vertical rise (6,381 feet), making this a truly stunning setback.  When a cabin on the Alyeska, Alaska tram hit a tower in 2013, technicians were able to replace it with a counterweight in just a few weeks until a new cabin could be manufactured.  We’ll have to wait and see whether CWA can repair the Zugspitze cabin or must fabricate a whole new one.