Aspen mayoral candidate, ski exec disagree on Gondola safety
pitkin county correspondent
ASPEN ” An Aspen mayoral candidate and the town’s biggest corporate citizen aren’t seeing eye to eye about a skier safety issue.
More precisely, the Aspen Skiing Co. does not think Bonnie Behrend knows what she’s talking about when she claims the Silver Queen Gondola is swinging wildly on its cable and bashing into the towers that support its movement up the mountain.
And Behrend, a former television personality in Aspen and other locales who last week threw her hat into the political ring, has claimed she was “lied to” by Skico public relations director Jeff Hanle when she questioned him about gondola safety.
“I didn’t lie to her,” declared Hanle on Monday. “I called her back and told her exactly what I had learned.”
What Hanle said he learned was that one day about a month ago, just before the Skico closed down the gondola because of 100 mph winds, a tourist reported that the gondola car he was in had “brushed a tower” while being buffeted by the high winds.
Behrend, who writes a blog at bonniebehrend.com, reported last week that she was downloading on the gondola on April 4 when the car she was riding in with three other passengers started “bobbing” as the system stopped several times.
She described a harrowing ride in which “I almost lost my cookies,” but it ended without mishap except for a conversation she claimed to have with a lift operator at the base. The lift-op allegedly “acknowledged” that the Skico has been having trouble “learning how to manage these new cars” and that “the towers are not wide enough to keep the larger buckets from bumping the towers.” She claimed he told her it had happened “a few times.”
Hanle on Monday countered that that sort of thing had happened exactly once, on that 100 mph windy day, and not again. He said that after talking with Behrend on April 6 and telling her he had never heard of such a thing, “I did some checking” and discovered that one such report had come in. So, he said, he called her back and told her that.
Behrend’s website reflects Hanle’s call-back, but it also still includes her contention that she was “lied to by a Skico representative about critical safety issues.”
“I’m sorry she was frightened by her ride down the gondola,” Hanle said, adding that if Behrend or anyone else has safety concerns he should call the Skico, and remarking that Behrend may be “just trying to bump up traffic on her website.”
Hanle said he discussed the matter with Skico brass, but that “there’s no issue for us as far as we’re concerned about the safety of the gondola” and that Behrend is “really not that important for us to give her too much of our time.”
Above all, he said, “I don’t want to get into, what do they say, wrestling in the mud with pigs? I think her actions and words will speak for themselves.” He said Behrend’s “personal agenda” has led her to make “baseless accusations,” and concluded, “I didn’t lie to her. And she knows it.”
Behrend could not be reached for comment late Monday.
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