US chair lift repairs no problem here
different gear boxes make the difference
By Chris Woodall
Colorado ski areas are concerned about welds that keep their fixed-grip Yan triple chairlifts running, but similar lifts on Blackcomb and Whistler don’t have a problem with their welds, according to company spokesmen.
Keystone resort in Colorado repaired the welds at the centre of the bullwheel on its Yan triple chair this fall. Seven other Colorado ski areas are watching the key weld.
But although the local Yan triple, non-detachable chairs — the Magic, Catskinner and Crystal Ridge lifts on Blackcomb and the Peak, Black and Olympic chairs on Whistler Mountain — are similar to those in Colorado, the lifts on Blackcomb and Whistler Mountain have a different gear box. The Colorado companies have a Swiss-made "Kissling" gear box that is thought to be the source of a potential breakdown of the bullwheel weld. The gear boxes on the Whistler and Blackcomb lifts are "475 gear boxes," says Whistler Mountain’s David Perry.
"There's no problem. All have been tested and are okay."
"It's not a new issue," says Blackcomb's David Barry. "Examining the bullwheels is part of a checklist of things to look at."
The B.C. government is aware of the potential problem, too.
"We have required the ski resorts to monitor the lifts carefully," says Juliette Proom, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, responsible for chairlift inspections.
The province has also recently announced a public review of safety systems under provincial jurisdiction, including design, manufacture, installation and operation of ski lifts.
Keystone, the one Colorado ski resort that repaired the welds on its Yan lifts, worked furiously to get the work done before the current ski season. The other Colorado resorts are waiting for spring before starting repairs.
Concern in Colorado comes from a summertime bulletin from Lift Engineering and Manufacturing Co., the bankrupt company that built the Yan lifts, alerting ski resorts to the welds on the top and bottom of the bullwheel assembly.
An accident occurred in 1985 when a bullwheel collapsed at Keystone ski resort, throwing 49 people to the ground. One skier was killed.
"We're going to treat this seriously and treat it quickly and completely," Keystone's spokesman Jim Felton told a Denver Post newspaper reporter about his ski resort's reaction to the bulletin.
Lift Engineering was the major lift maker in the U.S., according to the Denver Post article. The company made 10 per cent of the 2,700 lifts erected in North America, but sold its last lift in 1994.
Lift Engineering manufactured Whistler Mountain’s Quicksilver, Redline and Green high-speed detachable chairs. The Quicksilver lift was replaced this summer, following last year’s fatal accident in which four chairs fell to the ground. The grips on the Redline and Green chairs have been replaced this season with a new grip designed and manufactured by a consortium of ski areas that had similar Yan detachable lifts.