News Roundup: Turnover

  • Squaw seeks extension for permit to replace Red Dog lift.
  • MND Group turnover increases 15.1 percent year-over-year.  The company aims to double sales by 2020 partially through LST Ropeways subsidiary.  Referencing the new Cannon Mountain T-Bar in the latest magazine, MND notes “success has enabled LST to penetrate the US market, paving the way for other promising opportunities.”
  • Doppelmayr will begin building its next tri-cable gondola in December.  Who would have guessed Kenya would get a 3S before the United States!
  • Forest Service gives final green light for Breckenridge and Keystone six-place upgrades.
  • A slow landslide continues to move tower 6 of the Barrows lift at Howelsen Hill.
  • SE Group will study placement of Aspen Mountain’s future Lift 1A.
  • Denver Post publishes two part interview with Larry Smith of the CPTSB re: Granby Ranch.
  • The LiftDigital safety bar display system with integrated Wi-Fi will launch in Colorado for 2017-18.
  • New PomaLink newsletter features the Grand Canyon Express and a six-station gondola at a zoo in China.
  • Poma’s 2016 Reference Book includes LPOA installations but not Skytrac ones.
  • Mountain Creek files for bankruptcy protection with debts totaling $40+ million including $500,000 balance on 2012 Partek chairlift loan.
  • One of Heavenly’s original 1962 tram cars is for sale.  Email me if you’re interested.
  • heavenlytramcar
  • Artur Doppelmayr died Friday at age 95.  May he rest in peace.
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Granby Ranch Investigation Report Released

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The Quickdraw lift at Granby Ranch, Colorado is a 1999 Leitner detachable quad where a “rare dynamic event” last December caused a a chair to contact this tower, killing one and injuring two children.

The Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board released its 151-page final report on last December’s fatal accident at Granby Ranch this afternoon.  The investigative team included seven professional engineers with more than 250 years of combined lift experience with support from Leitner-Poma and Granby Ranch personnel, among others. The team conducted extensive tests on the Quickdraw lift from the afternoon of the accident through January 5th and spent months writing this detailed analysis, identifying contributing factors and making recommendations for changes.  Appendices include witness statements, photographs and prior inspection reports but the core of the document is 13 pages which everyone who works on ski lifts should read.  I’ve done my best to summarize below.

Chair 58 contacted tower 5 at a 40-degree angle that morning due to two contributing factors.  The first was the tuning of a new drive installed last Fall by an independent contractor.  Two specific parameters may have created pulses of energy and rope instability, the report notes.  “It is probable that the combined effect of [these two settings] may have resulted in the drive trying to respond too aggressively to lift demands when changing from ‘Fast’ to ‘Slow’ and back to ‘Fast’ again.”  The second contributing factor was the influence of one or more speed changes leading up to the incident.

Other potential contributing factors were:

  • Control system complexity resulting from the new ABB DCS800 drive’s interface with older Pilz/Leitner low-voltage controls.
  • A control board replacement from February 2016.
  • Possible damage to the electric motor encoder.
  • Unknown electrical cycle shown in data logs that had occurred at a 3.7 second interval over the entire life of the lift.
  • Tension factor(s) that would require more testing to determine.
  • Natural instability of the profile.  “There appears to have been a very unique combination of rope tension, carrier spacing, tower spans, tower height, carrier loading and natural carrier movement that led to the transverse carrier swing that resulted in Carrier 58 hitting Tower 5,” the document states.
  • Natural harmonic response of the haul rope.

Wind was not found to be an outside influence, nor was passenger conduct.  “The incident that occurred on December 29th, 2016 at Granby Ranch was unprecedented,” the investigative team wrote.  “Although many factors may have combined to amplify the effect of the rope instability leading to Carrier 58 colliding with Tower 5, the performance of the new drive is considered to be the primary cause of the incident.”  The report explains electronic drives such as the DCS800 added to Quickdraw last year and used on many lifts are also used in a wide variety of other applications.  The tuning and “fine-tuning” of a drive is complex and unique to each application and lift.  “It appears the new drive was not comprehensively tuned to this particular lift during installation,” the document says.

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News Roundup: Quebec

  • Intrawest likely won’t buy any new lifts this year.
  • TV station in Maine highlights lift maintenance and oversight with visits to Sugarloaf and Camden Snow Bowl.
  • Denver7 lands the first interview with Larry Smith of the Colorado Passenger Tramway Board following Granby Ranch incident.
  • Sunshine Polishing moving gondola refurbishing operation to Grand Junction.
  • A $67 million, six-year old gondola in Rio sits abandoned.
  • Poma double rope evacuated at Mont Orford.
  • Heron-Poma double rope evac’d at Sleeping Giant before problem apparently fixed with a screwdriver.
  • French lift site reports on two brand new lifts in Quebec.
  • Waterville Valley’s new Green Peak triple will finally open Saturday.
  • “Mexicable is a great experience and it is something that you need to do should you ever visit Mexico City.”
  • Austrian rope manufacturer Teufelberger acquires Italian competitor Redaelli (Fatzer of Switzerland and ArcelorMittal of France are the other big two.)
  • See more photos of the mind-blowing Giggijochbahn gondola.
  • La Paz’s fourth gondola opens March 6th.
  • Leitner Ropeways will complete the new 8-passenger gondola in Torreón, Mexico in April.
  • British Columbia approves construction of Revelstoke Adventure Park with chairlift/gondola construction planned for 2017 and 2018 adjacent to Revelstoke Mountain Resort.
  • Seilbahn Blog has some awesome new photos of the first and only D-Line chairlift.
  • Seven year-old falls from chair at Thunder Ridge.
  • The New York Times checks in at Tamarack.
  • Arapahoe Basin formally unveils Beavers/Steep Gullies trail map & expansion plan with fixed-grip quad chairlift to debut in late 2018.
  • Doppelmayr to build 21,000′, $18 million gondola in Silao, Mexico.
  • Sugarloaf and Doppelmayr are doing a mid-season load test of Skyline on Thursday.

Quickdraw at Granby Ranch to Reopen Following “Rare Dynamic Event”

For the first time in 24 years (and post-Lift Engineering) an electrical or mechanical problem has led to a fatality on an American ski lift.  The Quickdraw quad at Granby Ranch will re-open Tuesday after the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board reached an interim operation agreement with the ski area.  The news comes almost two weeks after the December 29th accident, in which a mother and her two daughters fell from a chair.  Unfortunately, the agreement notes that a “rare dynamic event” due to issues with the electronic drive/control system caused the riders’ fall. Environmental factors, weather and/or rider behavior were not to blame.

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A chair struck this tower Dec. 29, 2016, causing three members of a Texas family to fall 25 feet.  One died.

The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, which oversees the tramway board, conducted extensive testing in addition to interviewing witnesses and engineers over the past 10 days.  Mother Kelly Huber and her two children were riding chair number 58 when it came into contact with tower 5 due to irregular line dynamics.  The lift had been load tested less than four weeks prior, on Dec. 5th.

The operation agreement with the CPTSB is stringent.  Quickdraw’s electronic drive must be disconnected (this particular lift has two diesels – auxiliary and evacuation.)  Lift mechanics, operators and ski patrollers all must perform a line check prior to operation each day.  Additional visual line and ground checks will be required to be documented every two hours.  For the first three days, the lift will only be permitted to move 600 feet per minute, even though the diesel auxiliary is rated for up to 900 fpm.  After two additional days at 700 fpm, Granby Ranch will be permitted to operate the lift at 800 fpm for the rest of the season.  Presumably this summer the lift will get a completely new drive.

The operation agreement is not a final report and does not identify any acts or omissions leading up to the accident, but merely outlines the conditions under which the lift can re-open.  In a press release dated today, Granby Ranch echoed its condolences to the family of the victims and affirmed its commitment to safety.  “The Quick Draw Express has been operating safely  at Granby Ranch over the 16 seasons since its installation,” the company noted. “Granby Ranch has followed all prescribed protocols in operating the lift.”

We haven’t heard the end of this one.  Hopefully the final report will provide some insight into how this type of event can be avoided in the future.

Update 1/10/17: Apparently a third-party company installed a new ABB drive last summer that ramped up and/or down too quickly, leading to the dynamic event.

News Roundup: Vacation

Hello readers- for the next two weeks I am floating the Grand Canyon without access to the internet.  I’ve scheduled a few posts for my absence, otherwise lift blogging will resume Nov. 5th     –Peter from Flagstaff, Arizona.

Does Your State Have a Tramway Safety Board?

As we saw last week in West Virginia, it usually doesn’t take long after a lift-related accident for someone to bring up the issue of regulation.  Operation of ski lifts and tramways in the United States follows the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) B77.1 Standard for Passenger Ropeways.  ANSI is a non-profit organization that oversees the creation of standards for everything from nut and bolt shapes to paper sizes and computer programming language.  States adopt ANSI standards which become the laws of the land.  The idea is whether you ride a chairlift in Alaska or gondola in Florida, everything from the lift’s line speed to the signage in the load area is spelled out by the same document.  You can download your very own copy here for $175.

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By my count, 21 states have some sort of tramway oversight agency as shown in green.

The ANSI standard is updated about every five years and some states are faster than others at adopting the latest version.  Each state also decides whether to back the B77 standard with licensing and inspections. Without question, the most robust oversight agency in the country is the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board, which oversees Colorado’s 275 aerial lifts and countless surface tows.  Colorado is the only state to go so far as to conduct unannounced inspections on every lift every year.  CPTSB has three full-time staff members and eight contract inspectors.  Only a handful of states directly employ lift inspector(s.) Some states hire contract inspectors like Colorado does but many simply require an annual fee and inspection by somebody certified, usually an insurance inspector.  The bottom of this post has a table of each state’s requirements as best I could find.

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