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 Eagle Bahn Gondola 19 is now open for downhill loading only. The gondola will download until 5:30 PM this evening. 07/08/19 4:15 PM
“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.
Twenty one years ago this December, a first-of-its kind gondola system opened between Telluride and Mountain Village in one of the world’s great mountain towns. The 3-stage Garaventa CTEC gondola cost $16 million to build but is completely free to ride. Thirty-nine million passengers later, this unique system operates 275 days each year and 19 hours per day. The lift features three haul ropes and cabins interline between sections 1 and 2, from Oak Street to Station St. Sophia and Mountain Village. Section 3 further connects Mountain Village Center to Station Village Parking. The Town of Mountain Village owns and operates the gondola (at a cost of $4 million a year) with funding from Telluride Ski & Golf, the Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association and San Miguel County. The parties in 1999 agreed to fund the gondola through 2027, but with over 100,000 operating hours the existing machine may not last until then.
To give you an idea how critical this transportation link has become to people who live, work and visit Telluride, dates of operation are announced three years in advance and a fleet of buses replaces gondola service whenever down time reaches 30 minutes or more. Custom lightning protection on towers maximizes up-time year round. The gondola’s aggressive operating schedule makes upgrading an aging system challenging. A $6 million overhaul completed in 2007 and 2008 replaced many of the systems moving parts in phases.
In 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation agreed to fund an engineering study of the gondola due to its crucial role in public transportation. Not surprisingly, Doppelmayr submitted the winning bid to perform the study and released their findings last fall. The 239-page report looked at adding system capacity, transitioning to level walk-in boarding, replacing major components and/or rebuilding the entire system. Russ Oberlander of Doppelmayr concluded ultimately that, “past and continued maintenance, along with the capital replacements and upgrades of the Mountain Village Gondola system could allow the system to run indefinitely.”
Red Lodge Mountain, located near the famous town of the same name and the northeast corner of Yellowstone, is Montana’s fourth largest ski area. You wouldn’t know it pulling up to the classic lodge and old school lifts out front. Opened in 1960 as Grizzly Peak, it now skis like two distinct resorts – the original mountain with 1970s-era double chairs and a huge expansion served by dual high speed quads that opened in 1996. Approaching its 60th anniversary, the mountain faces dueling challenges of prolonged drought and competition from the booming Big Sky region.
Grizzly Peak opened with one lift, now called Willow Creek, in 1960. This classic Riblet double has since been shortened to start above the base area and only operates on peak days. In 1970, the resort added two more Riblet doubles that also still operate – a beginner lift dubbed Miami Beach and another to the summit called Grizzly Peak.
In 1977, Red Lodge added a rare Borvig double at a western ski area called Midway Express. It served no new terrain but allowed skiers to return to mid-mountain without having to ski all the way to the base area. With just five towers and a vertical rise of only 400 feet, this lift proved too expensive to operate and was abandoned in 2010. Most of the chairs were auctioned to raise cash and the sheaves, comm-line and haul rope were dropped to the ground and left. The terminals and towers still stand today.