Lift breakdowns prompt explanation |

Lift breakdowns prompt explanation

Crews this spring will retrofit the PayDay lift at Park City Mountain Resort with a new type of gearbox. The resort will replace the gearboxes in five lifts. PCMR has suffered a series of lift breakdowns blamed on malfunctioning gearboxes. Grayson West/Park Record

Park City Mountain Resort and its lift manufacturer at the end of March sent letters to season-pass holders explaining the resort’s ski-lift breakdowns, which have left hundreds of skiers and snowboarders stranded over the past two ski seasons.

The two letters, one on PCMR letterhead and signed by Peter Curtis, the resort’s president and general manager, and the other on Doppelmayr CTEC letterhead and signed by it president, Jan Leonard, provide assurances that the two are devising a solution.

The letters are dated March 28 and they were also posted to PCMR’s blog.

"We certainly had some problems. We wanted to reassure them we identified the problems and that we have come up with a resolution," said Krista Parry, the resort’s spokeswoman.

The letters do not provide extensive details beyond those that were publicized during the past ski season, when PCMR and the lift manufacturer made statements about the breakdowns. The breakdowns have previously been blamed on malfunctioning gearboxes.

In his one-page letter, Curtis indicates that PCMR plans to retrofit its detachable lifts, beginning in April. The resort closed for the season on Sunday. The letter says that PCMR will install Sumitomo/Caterpillar gear boxes in the PayDay, Silverlode, Bonanza, McConkey’s and King Con lifts.

Leonard has previously said that some of PCMR’s lifts were made with Swiss-made gearboxes, before the manufacturer switched to the Sumitomo/Caterpillar equipment.

"We felt that anything less than retrofitting all of the detachable lifts with the best available gear box would be less than satisfactory," Curtis wrote in his letter.

He said in the letter that the resort and the lift manufacturer have devised "an action plan that provides a long-term solution."

"Until recently, there was no reason for Doppelmayr CTEC to believe that there could be a design or engineering flaw within these gear boxes," Curtis said in the letter.

PCMR has suffered four lift shutdowns in the past two ski seasons. Leonard has said that such breakdowns are rare and that his company’s lifts are "100 percent safe, they’re 110 percent safe."

In March, the popular PayDay lift malfunctioned with 280 people aboard. In February, the Bonanza lift broke down while it was carrying 175 people. The Silverlode lift had previously stopped working twice. The stranded skiers and snowboarders were evacuated with ropes each time.

All the lifts that broke down carry six people on each chair. They are known as six-packs. Four of the five lifts that will be retrofitted with new gearboxes are six-packs, with King Con, as a four-passenger lift, being the exception.

In his letter, Leonard, as he has maintained, said that the lifts’ manufacturing, not PCMR’s maintenance, caused the breakdowns. He explained the planned change to the Sumitomo/Caterpillar gearboxes, saying, "we have used these gear units in most of our lifts since 1999." He said that PCMR’s First Time lift is fitted with such a gearbox.

"I want to assure you that we, and other experts, are identifying the problems relevant to the failure of the three gear units at Park City Mountain Resort and are working closely with them to arrive at the solutions," Leonard wrote.

In an interview, Leonard said the team investigating the breakdowns has not completed its probe.

"There’s still more work that needs to be done as far as an analysis goes," he said.

Leonard said the sides are negotiating how to split the cost of the replacement gearboxes. He expects that neither his company nor PCMR will pay the total cost.

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