Eagle Bahn Gondola reopens five days after breakdown
Bolts replaced after 74 employees evacuated last week
VAIL — The Eagle Bahn Gondola reopened Monday afternoon after being offline for nearly six full days due to “an issue with certain bolts on one of the lift towers,” Vail Resorts said in a statement.
The reopened gondola was downloading guests only Monday afternoon but is expected to resume full normal operations at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, according to the statement.
Last Wednesday, the gondola stopped after a safety monitoring system detected the issue with the bolts, the resort said. Vail Ski Patrol evacuated 74 employees from the lift after it stopped at about 8:35 a.m. The gondola was not open to the public when it stopped.
The bolts have been replaced and inspections have been completed, the resort said Monday.
“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 resort said in its statement.
Lee Rasizer, a spokesman for the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board, which regulates ski lifts in Colorado, said the board was informed of the “tower joint problem” on Wednesday after the issue was discovered by Vail Resorts personnel. Rasizer said the board has remained in close contact with Vail Resorts since then, and that by Monday the repairs had been completed and inspections were under way.
Vail Resorts operates Vail Mountain under a permit from the Forest Service. Aaron Mayville, district ranger for the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District of the Forest Service, has been monitoring the incident and response over the past week.
“From the Forest Service perspective, (Vail Resorts) followed their protocols and they handled the situation pretty well, all things considered,” Mayville said.
Each year, the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board conducts a licensing inspection as well as an unannounced inspection on the state’s passenger lifts. It conducted a licensing inspection at Vail, including the Eagle Bahn Gondola, on Nov. 3 and an unannounced visit on Feb. 15, Rasizer said
“All necessary corrections were completed by the ski area stemming from those two inspections,” he said in a statement.
No bike hauls
On the day of the stoppage, the company stated that whatever stopped the gondola will be fixed before it reopens.
That day, the company said the gondola would remain closed Thursday, July 4. Each morning from Friday through Monday, the company tweeted from its account @VailMtnAlerts that the gondola would remain closed for the day.
The mountain’s other gondola, Gondola One, has remained open, with a shuttle connecting to Eagle’s Nest and the Epic Discovery Activities. Bike hauls are not permitted on Gondola One this summer. They are allowed on the Eagle Bahn Gondola, but when it was closed, there were no bike hauls on the mountain.
Businesses that benefit from downhill bike rentals — especially during one of the busiest weeks of the summer — had seen those models sit unrented over the last few days.
They were relieved to hear the news Monday that the gondola was open again.
“We’re super excited,” said Matt Carroll, general manager of Double Diamond Ski Shop in Lionshead. “It’s great. …. It could have been (closed for) a lot longer time period, so we’re really excited about that.
Earlier in the day, Carroll said his store was feeling the effects of the closure.
“Eighty percent of our bike fleet is designed to go up the gondola and come down the mountain,” Carroll said. “It’s definitely hurting us.”
Neil Conroy of Buzz’s Bikes in Vail Village said the closure had cut their full-suspension mountain bike rentals by about 90%.
And, earlier Monday, both Conroy and Carroll said Vail Resorts could have done a better job of communicating information about the closure.
But by the end of the day, they had gotten the best news possible on the matter: The gondola would be fully open in the morning.
“It is very welcomed news,” Conroy said. “Hopefully more bike rentals, and obviously it’ll be more traffic for (Vail Resorts) as well. I’m sure they’re just as anxious to get it open as the rest of us, with all their activities up top.
Following the completion of the largest snowmaking project in North America this year, Vail’s plan was to start the season atop Gondola One with the Swingsville and Ramshorn runs, as well as a beginner skiing area over at Golden Peak.