Whistler Mountain is working with nine other ski areas and a team of engineers designing and manufacturing a new grip for the Redline and Green chairs, which used the Yan 7 grip.
The lifts were temporarily shut down last winter when minute cracks were found in the grip mechanism on some chairs. The cracks were determined to be manufacturing defects. Those chairs where the cracks were found were removed from the line and the lifts monitored for the remainder of the season.
The prototype of a redesigned replacement grip is currently being tested by a consortium of engineering firms and manufactured by Murray-Latta of Vancouver.
"There's a spectrum of solutions, depending on the company and the regulatory authority," David Perry, Whistler Mountain's marketing manager said.
California has prohibited lifts with the Yan 7 grip. Vermont is going to continue to allow Yan 7s to operate as they are but requires careful monitoring of the grips. Idaho is unregulated.
In B.C., the ministry that regulates transportation systems has required that the grips be modified.
"It's interesting, last year they said they were OK if we monitored them," Perry noted.
The manufacturer of the Yan grips and lifts, Lift Engineering & Manufacturing Co. of Carson City, Nevada, filed for Chapter 11 protection on July 1. Chapter 11 protects faltering companies from their creditors while allowing them to reorganize under the court's supervision.
The Yan 7 grip is not the same as the Yan 11 grip that was on Whistler Mountain's Quicksilver lift. Four chairs fell from the Quicksilver line last Dec. 23. One passenger was killed, a second paralyzed and a third died as a result of complications from the accident. The lift remained closed all winter and is being replaced by a high-speed gondola manufactured by Poma of America. A coroner's report on the accident is expected next month.
Cracks were discovered in the grips of a Yan 7 lift at Silver Star Resort last February, which prompted a shut down of all Yan 7 lifts in North America. Chairs where cracks in the grips were found to exceed tolerance levels were removed. The remaining chairs were monitored closely for the rest of the season.
Whistler Mountain is working closely with the provincial ministry on the design and testing of the new grip. The replacement grip eliminates the gravity-activated wedge design of the jaw and adds a fixed jaw.
Other ski areas participating in the redesigned grip with Whistler Mountain include Silver Star in B.C., Lake Louise in Alberta and Killington and Pico in Vermont.