Whistler Village Gondola still closed

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, an annual American holiday, which provides a good opportunity for US visitors to flock to Whistler for a couple of days of skiing.

It could make a very uncomfortable weekend for Whistler, as one of the most important points of access to the mountain, the Whistler Village Gondola, is broken and cannot take skiers and snowboarders to the Roundhouse. If you want to get up Whistler Mountain, you need to take two chairs starting with Fitzsimmons, or else go up Blackcomb Mountain on the Excalibur Chair, ride down to Jersey Cream, take that chair and then take the Peak 2 Peak over to the Roundhouse.

I’m still following up this story but for now read below for what I’ve discovered thus far.

Gear box issue to blame for breakdown; maintenance man expected Jan. 12

By Jesse Ferreras, Pique Newsmagazine

January 13, 2011

Whistler Village Gondola is still broken and skiers and snowboarders are being advised to use other lifts at this time.

A representative at Guest Relations said on Tuesday that the gondola, which provides access to midstation and to the Roundhouse on Whistler Mountain, is “still in maintenance” and as of Wednesday there was still no time frame on when it will be operating again.

The Gondola broke down on Monday, leaving over 270 skiers and snowboarders, and 28 sightseers, stranded for more than an hour before the back-up motor started to slowly bring guests to the top. Some guests were on the gondola for more than two hours before they reached the Roundhouse.

The biggest issue was cold. It was -14 C at the Roundhouse when when the lift shut down, but no issues relating to hypothermia or frostbite were reported.

Whistler Blackcomb Guest Relations, as well as mountain hosts and food and beverage staff took in guests at the top of the gondola and gave them free lift tickets, a free lunch voucher and hand/toe warmers.

“At no time was safety a concern for guests on the Whistler Village Gondola,” said Whistler Blackcomb in a statement.

Wayne Wiltse, Whistler Blackcomb’s lift maintenance manager, said in a Wednesday interview that there was a bearing failure in the gondola’s main drive gearbox, which is “like the transmission in your car.”

Specifically, there appears to be a problem with an internal oil pump resulting in a lack of lubrication to the bearing.

“The lift operator heard a noise, a vibration, and stopped the lift,” Wiltse said.

Fixing the lift requires flying in a lift maintenance worker from Zurich, Switzerland who was expected to arrive in Whistler at 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. Repairs also required parts manufactured in Grand Junction, Colorado, which were sitting at Vancouver Airport as of Wednesday morning.

Leitner Poma of America, one of the biggest lift manufacturers in the world alongside Doppelmayr, designed the Whistler Village Gondola.

It is as yet uncertain when the gondola will be open again. Wiltse said the company is doing the best it can to get it open by this weekend, the American Martin Luther King holiday, but there’s no certainty that will happen.

At this time people can use lifts such as the Fitzsimmons Chair to get up Whistler Mountain, or if they wish to go to the Roundhouse they can upload on Blackcomb and then take the Peak 2 Peak Gondola to Whistler Mountain. They can also use the Creekside Gondola and the Big Red Express.

Whistler Blackcomb’s Facebook followers are anxious to have the gondola up and running by the weekend with fresh powder in the forecast.

Said one Facebook user: “We’ve got some serious pow coming, but the lineups at Creekside could be catastrophic.”

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About jesseferreras

Sea to Sky-based journalist. Snowboarder, cyclist, cinephile, bon vivant.
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