Silver Mountain was forced to shut down its alpine skiing and snowboarding when the resort's gondola suffered a mechanical failure. Complicated repairs lasted a week, but crews got the gondola back in service and skiers on the slopes again.
A sealed bearing inside the gondola bullwheel failed Jan. 21, forcing the gondola to close. The gondola, which the resort installed in 1990, provides the only access to the upper lifts and all the ski slopes at Silver Mountain.
"We've never had a failure like this before," John Williams, Director of Marketing, told OnTheSnow.com. Operators ran the gondola slow to unload passengers when the bearing failed. Employees and 100 lucky guests already at the top got to hoard the slopes to themselves for the day before being shuttled down the old access road.
The replacement process for the gondola bearing required time. A new part had to be procured, plus the work required the installation of specialized rigging to relieve 60,000 pounds of tension on the gondola's cable. Crews needed to release the cable tension to be able to remove components to gain access to the bullwheel bearing.
"The hardest part was removing the old bearing," said Williams. "The crew used torches, hammers, and chisels to get it out." Reassembly of the gondola put it back in service within a week.
Silver Mountain continued to operate Morning Star Lodge at the base of the gondola, the indoor waterpark, restaurants, and shops on normal schedules. Those staying in the resort's lodge with ski packages were shuttled to Lookout Pass, about 30 minutes away. Other ski resorts in the Inland Northwest, including 49 Degrees North, pitched in to offer discount lift tickets to Silver Mountain's season passholders for the duration of the closure.
The Idaho resort has now returned to normal operations with the gondola whisking skiers and riders up to the slopes. Silver Mountain has also reinstated their Powder Thursdays in February and March. The après ski party in their indoor waterpark starts at 4 p.m. The first 50 people get in free; others pay $5.
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