Ski Granby Ranch replacing part that likely led to fatal chairlift incident
Ski Granby Ranch announced Wednesday morning it will replace the lift component it has acknowledged likely led to the death of a 40-year-old woman in late December when it bucked the mother and her two young children from the chair and down 2 ½ stories onto hard-packed snow.
As first reported by the Daily, an independent, third-party contractor conducted work on the electric drive/control system of the Quick Draw Express lift at the Grand County-based ski area before the start of the season. The governmental agency that inspects and licenses the state’s chairlifts then load-tested the Leitner-Poma manufactured quad on Dec. 5 and authorized its use four days later. The resort opened on Dec. 16 with the Quick Draw chair — Granby Ranch’s primary access point to the east mountain and its beginner and intermediate runs — in operation.
Karen Huber, of San Antonio, and her two daughters were thrown from the lift on the morning of Dec. 29 after the chair abruptly jolted and banged into a tower about a third of the way up the run. The three were raced by ambulance to Middle Park Medical Center in Granby where the mother died from her traumatic injuries. Her 12-year-old daughter was treated there and released, while her 9-year-old daughter was medevac’d to Children’s Hospital in Aurora by Flight For Life due to the severity of her injuries. Both girls are in the process of their physical recoveries.
Under a temporary agreement following a six-day Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board investigation, which cited the electric drive as the source of the lift’s troubles — but not that significant maintenance had been conducted on it before opening — the 400-acre resort was again permitted to operate the Quick Draw via its diesel backup power. Granby Ranch restarted the lift on Jan. 10.
After the Daily’s Jan. 18 story revealing the major offseason repair, the tramway safety board again directed Granby Ranch to shutter the Quick Draw Express for additional testing. The eight-member inspection agency under the state’s Department of Regulatory Agencies has stated it does not expect to release its final report on the fatal incident for several months.
Resort CEO Melissa Cipriani, daughter of Granby Ranch owners Marise and Celso Cipriani, confirmed in the Wednesday news release that Leitner-Poma of America, the Grand Junction-based arm of the European lift maker, will install the Quick Draw’s new electric drive. Granby Ranch is now targeting the full-time reopening of the lift the week of Jan. 30.
“Granby Ranch made the decision to work with the lift’s original manufacturer to install a new electric drive,” Cipriani said in the statement. “Once installed, the lift will be offline for up to 48 hours while it is inspected and tested by the tramway board.”
From there, the state agency will make the final determination on when the lift may operate again under electric power. In the meantime, the ski area is working with the lift-licensing group to have the Quick Draw Express re-approved for diesel-powered use this upcoming weekend while the new electric control system work is completed.