“That’s how we put them up there,” said Tony Abbott just after a helicopter set down a chair from the Governor’s Express chairlift in an area at the bottom of Marble Mountain on Friday.
Abbott, operations manager at the downhill ski facility in Steady Brook, and lead hand Craig Dawe were stationed in the cordoned off area at the back of the parking lot to unhook the chairs the helicopter brought down from the mountain.
Once one chair was off, the Universal Helicopters’ chopper headed off into the sky again and out of sight over the top of the mountain where the rest of the crew would hook on another.
It took only a couple of runs for the process to get into full swing and in less than five minutes after a dropoff the helicopter would return with another chair. In no time at all six chairs were on the ground and the helicopter became visible as it picked up another.
While he wasn’t happy with the reason the chairs were coming down, and the damage to them, Abbott was pleased to see work being done on getting the lift operational again.
Abbott said there’s bets on that he won’t get the lift open in time for the start of the ski season.
“But I got news for everybody,” he said with a laugh.
The chairs and lift were damaged in a fire caused by a lightning strike at the lift shack at the top of the mountain on Aug. 8.
The fire spread through the chairlift terminal and caused the cable supporting it to snap, and the cable and chairs collapsed to the ground.
Chris Beckett, general manager of Marble Mountain said the damage to the chairs was such that all 100 chairs on the lift will be replaced.
The main cable, the lift shack and the top terminal housing will also have to be replaced.
Work on the removal of some of the damaged parts of the chairlift began on Aug. 15 and some of the chairs at the top of the mountain, where the terrain is flatter, were loaded on a trailer and brought down.
But in the steeper part of the trail, around the Musgrave run, the only option was to bring in a helicopter.
It’s really difficult to get a machine in there, said Beckett, adding that using a helicopter is the fastest way to get the roughly 1,000 pound chairs, complete with grips, down.
Once the removal is complete, the grips will be removed from the chairs and the ones that are bent and have the most damage will be disposed of. Beckett’s not sure what they’ll do with the others yet as they could be repurposed.
Besides the removal of the chairs, the haul cable was also to be taken down in pieces on Friday. The top terminal will come down next week.
With the whirring sound of the helicopter approaching behind him, Beckett said the chair removal was “a bit of a milestone” in getting the lift operational again.
The new chairs and haul rope have already been ordered. And by next week they expect to know what will need to be ordered in terms of grips and the terminal.
Marble is working with the lift manufacturer, Poma, on the repair and it’s expected that the installation and reconstruction will begin in late September with final testing beginning in November.
The repair is being covered by insurance, however, Beckett still didn’t have an exact cost on what it will take to get the lift operational again.