Ethan Labriola, 8, right, with Hannah Kline, 8, head up the hill one more time to sled on a hill next to Silver Spur.  The temperature was two degrees, and their cheeks were getting cold.

Photo by Tyler Arroyo

Ethan Labriola, 8, right, with Hannah Kline, 8, head up the hill one more time to sled on a hill next to Silver Spur. The temperature was two degrees, and their cheeks were getting cold.

Crews work to repair lift

Andy Wirth: Highly probable Storm Peak quad open today

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— A complication with the casings needed to repair the Storm Peak Express prevented it from opening Sunday, but an official with the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. said it's 'highly probable' the lift will open today.

Workers with lift operations and lift maintenance worked late Friday night, all day Saturday and all day Sunday, including nights, to repair the high-speed quad, which shut down Friday because of a mechanical failure.

"As we are all bemoaning the cold temps, they are out there working on cold steel in difficult situations," said Andy Wirth, vice president of sales and marketing for Ski Corp. "You'll have a hard time finding a more dedicated team."

Doug Allen, vice president of mountain operations for Ski Corp., said Storm Peak Express stopped working when a connector between two of the lift's gears malfunctioned.

"It appears (the gear) wore out prematurely," Allen said Saturday.

Speculation that inclement weather was responsible for the mechanical failure in the upper terminal of Stork Peak Express is incorrect, Wirth said.

"In this particular case, it's exceedingly unlikely that, based on where the mechanical breakdown took place, that the recent winds had anything to do with it," Wirth said. "This is case-hardened steel, but nonetheless, every kind of material can wear and fatigue."

Maintenance crews spent Saturday and Sunday rebuilding the mechanical drive systems before filling it with oil. The ski area secured 110 gallons of 80-weight gear oil for the repairs.

"Once we fill the casing back up with gear oil, we spin it up and go through the normal checks to make sure the lift is running safely and closely monitor the situation," Wirth said.

A gear connector needed to repair Storm Peak Express was located Saturday at Big Mountain Ski Resort in Whitefish, Mont. Local pilot Bob Maddox, who owns Mountain Flight Services, flew to Montana on short notice to help retrieve the part.

"It's a very specialized part and hard to come by because this doesn't happen very often," Allen said Saturday.

Sixty-five people were stranded on various chairs when Storm Peak Express shut down Friday morning.

Ski patrollers used ropes and harnesses to rescue the stranded skiers and riders without incident or injury.

Wirth praised the efforts of Ski Patrol, which practices lift evacuations but hasn't had to "affect a lift evacuation" since the mid-1980s, Wirth said.

"It's one thing to practice, it's another to be very effective in real life evacuations," said Wirth, who was monitoring the evacuation on a radio. "Ski Patrol performed magnificently on Friday, but we have some of the highest expectations you can imagine. How things went on Friday speaks to the quality of their training."

The stranded skiers and riders received a complimentary lunch and a one-day lift ticket, and Ski Corp. officials have been monitoring the response from locals and tourists regarding Storm Peak's closure.

"Nobody is thrilled about the lift going down," Wirth said. "But at the same time, from the people who were on the chair lift to our (other) guests, we made a sincere effort to make sure everyone knew what was going on. We frankly have not heard anything that was concerning, and we've been keeping our ears pretty close to the track on this

one."

All terrain accessed via Storm Peak Express can be accessed through other lifts, all of which are running. They are: Sundown Express, Pony Express, Sunshine Express, Burgess Creek, Bar UE, Four Points, and Morningside.

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