Whistler Mountain is committed to having a high-speed lift at Whistler Creek next season; a decision on what type of lift that is must be reached by April 15, but right now all options remain open.
"Many permutations are possible, but right now anything anyone says is speculation," said Whistler Mountain Marketing Director David Perry.
Whistler Mountain has talked to three major manufacturers of high speed lifts, Dopplemayr, Poma and Garavanta C-Tec, about replacing the Quicksilver chair but Perry said rumours of six passenger gondolas to the top of the Orange Chair and Dopplemayr moving its base of operation from Kelowna to Whistler are just that, rumours.
He added the recent decision by Fibreboard, owners of the Sierra-at-Tahoe and Northstar ski areas in California, to replace their Lift Engineering-manufactured high speed chairs doesn’t affect anything at Whistler.
"The Quicksilver chair and the Redline and Green chair are separate issues," Perry said.
Fibreboard said it had lost confidence in the Yan 11 and Yan 7 grips on its chairs manufactured by Lift Engineering and was replacing them. Perry said most ski operators in North America who have lifts with Yan 7 grips, like the Redline and Green chairs, are getting together to come up with a solution to the problem of cracks in the grips.
The Redline and Green chairs were shut down twice this year after cracks were found in some grip mechanisms.
The investigation into the Dec. 23 accident on the Quicksilver chair, which uses Yan 11 grips, is continuing under the direction of coroner Peter Gordon. Two people died and another was left paralyzed following the accident in which four chairs fell to the ground. The cause of the accident remains a mystery.
A second load test was performed on the Quicksilver March 1 in order to re-do G-force tests with chairs on the line. The original tests were inconclusive. No significant results were obtained from the March 1 tests and no further tests with load are planned.
The investigating team is still analyzing data it has collected but Gordon hasn’t set a date for any announcement. Whistler Mountain would like to wait for the coroner’s report but if it isn’t ready by April 15 a decision on a new lift system will have to be made.
Perry said some components of the Quicksilver chair, such as tower bases and motors, could be utilized in a new lift installation but it may be more effective just to replace the lift. If a replacement lift is installed it would follow the same general line to mid-station as the Quicksilver.
Perry added it would cost about $5 million to replace the Quicksilver. A six-passenger gondola to the top of the Orange Chair would cost about $15 million.
The Quicksilver and Redline were installed in 1990 for about $9 million.
Sierra-at-Tahoe had a fatality on one of its Lift Engineering chairs a few years ago, before Fibreboard owned the resort. However, that accident was found to have been caused by a failure in a sheave part, which caused a chair to jam and come to a stop on a sheave assembly. Another chair then struck the jammed chair, which led to the fatality.