Janice Kurbjun
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January 22, 2012
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Copper Mountain blacks out, lifts stop turning

Copper Mountain went from whiteout to blackout when the power went down at 11:25 a.m. Sunday.

Amidst a near white-out storm mountainwide, the lifts stopped turning and lift operators announced to crowds gathering in the lift maze that the power was down.

Ben Brown, director of Woodward at Copper, said auxiliary power at American Eagle Lift was used to turn the lift, allowing guests trapped on the chairs to evacuate. As of 11:45 a.m., skiers and riders still sat on Super Bee six-pack chairs.

Copper marketing director Pete Woods said it takes expertise to fire up the diesel generators, which left some guests stuck on the lift in the snow and wind. As they were delivered to the top, ski patrollers handed them free lift tickets to use on another day. The Super Bee was clear before 1 p.m.

"Lift maintenance were hitting all the lifts as quickly as they could," he said. To play it safe, four of the mountain's 18 chairs open Sunday morning will operate on auxiliary power for the rest of the day: American Eagle, American Flyer, Timberline Express and the Union Creek High- Speed Quad.

Brown said Copper's goal was to ensure guests were safe and cared for, as officials awaited word from Xcel Energy about the problem and when it would be fixed. Woods said the power flickered on and off after the initial incident.

Mark Stutz, spokesman for Xcel Energy, said the outage is due to a fault in an underground line near Copper. The fault caused the line to shut down, he said.

"We isolated the problem. We think we'll get it back by mid-afternoon, barring anything unforeseen," Stutz said at 1:30 p.m., adding, "Our first job is to get it fixed and figure out the cause later. It's probably not weather-related."

He said the outage affected just 600 customers, though one of those customers was Copper - where crowds were eager to keep skiing the snow falling heavily throughout the day. Copper Mountain, a resort that can see roughly 10,000 visitors on a typical weekend day, reported 9 inches of snow Sunday to eager skiers and riders.

Individuals in line chatted to each other, spreading news of the downed lifts. Many laughed, saying, "Well, at least the beer taps don't need power." Many migrated to the bars or indoors to wait out the outage. Others headed to the parking lots.

Woods said skiers and riders who waited were reloading lifts at 1:30 p.m. - people who will get tracks through the untouched snow falling hard throughout the incident.

"The snow was insane today. There were a lot of smiles out there for sure," he said. "We're just lucky skiers are resilient - and especially resilient on a powder day."


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The Summit Daily Updated Jan 22, 2012 04:13PM Published Jan 22, 2012 03:17PM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.