Steamboat Springs — Trampoline bungee jumpers along with downhill bikers and uphill hikers will have to wait until June 30 to take advantage of summer operations at Steamboat Ski Area while the mountain’s 30-year-old gondola is updated.
The news, announced Monday by Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., came as a surprise so soon after Intrawest, Steamboat’s parent company, announced in early February the company’s capital improvement plan for its resorts for 2017. Steamboat appeared to be left out of planned upgrades.
“Guests may not notice the changes to the gondola, but extensive work will be put in to the lift to enhance mountain access," said Ski Corp. President and COO Rob Perlman in a news release.
Work to be done on the gondola includes removing and reinstating the haul rope and replacing grips, hangers and terminal equipment. A new control system also will be installed.
Steamboat lift crews, partnering with a team from Doppelmayr, the lift's manufacturer, will begin work on the gondola in mid-April after winter operations cease April 16.
Steamboat Today tried to determine Monday if inspections by the Colorado Passenger Tramway Board, which regulates ski lifts for the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, mandated the refurbishing of Steamboat’s aging gondola, but this year's inspection reports were not posted, and the agency was closed Feb. 20 for Presidents Day holiday.
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Steamboat Vice President of Mountain Operations Doug Allen said the work on the gondola is not a result of any deficiencies detected by the state’s tramway safety board.
"No, no, no, this is a decision to avoid a major shutdown during scheduled operations," Allen said. "We're just seeing some wear and tear after 30 years and 80,000 hours. It's a rock, and it's been very well maintained."
During the last several inspections of the gondola, no "deficiencies" have turned up, Allen said. He told Steamboat Today this month the gondola operated 2,800 hours during 2015 and 2016 and was down due to mechanical issues for only three hours.
"We get inspected twice each year," Allen said.
Both the annual licensing inspection in September, when inspectors go through the machine pretty thoroughly, and the unannounced inspection when the inspector just shows up," failed to uncover any problems.
Steamboat hopes to open its new Outlaw Mountain Coaster and Maverick mini-golf course at the foot of the ski lifts for the first time on June 30 along with the existing Coca Cola Adventure Zone. Perlman said Steamboat will be prepared to give its summer guests the service they expect once updates to the gondola are complete.
When it first opened in 1986, the gondola was touted as the only eight-passenger gondola in the world with its ability to transport 2,800 passengers per hour to mid-mountain in 9 minutes. The old Stagecoach gondola needed 14 1/2 minutes to make the trip.
A June 30 opening would delay the start of summer operations by about two weeks, according to a review recent history.
In 2012, after a very light snow year, summer operations began on June 7. But in 2010, they began on June 17. Even in 2011, after record spring snowpack, the gondola began running June 15, in spite of heavy remaining snowpack above 9,500 feet.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1