Black Bear Chairlift out for a week

Posted: Friday, December 25, 2009

Eaglecrest's new Black Bear Chairlift has a broken part and will be out of commission at least until Jan. 2, General Manager Kirk Duncan said Thursday.

Abby Lowell / Juneau Empire
Abby Lowell / Juneau Empire

"It's just very unfortunate, but it's one of those things that happened," said Duncan. "We will respond as quickly as possible."

Duncan said the broken part - a shaft on the auxiliary side of the gear box - affected the braking system but did not compromise lift safety. He said chairlifts have four braking systems, and two were on this auxiliary shaft.

"Nobody was ever in any danger, but it certainly is an inconvenience ... with the Christmas holidays," he said.

The chairlift was open five days when it broke down.

The $900,000 refurbished lift was supposed to open at the beginning of the season but construction took longer than expected, so management moved the date forward to Christmas break.

The chairlift opened Saturday. While it is comprised mainly of new parts, the broken shaft is not one of them, Duncan said. He said the gear box costs about $100,000 and is about 35 years old.

The broken part will cost about $5,000 to replace.

Eaglecrest staff found the broken shaft during a routine visual inspection of the lift Wednesday afternoon.

Duncan said the timing of the break - with a solution determined by afternoon on Christmas Eve - contributed to the estimated delay.

Originally, before finding someone to do the work locally, management thought the lift might be out for up to six weeks, he said.

As a result of the breakage, Duncan said Eaglecrest will begin a new kind of testing on its critical equipment, perhaps in the summer, which he said should "troubleshoot some of these things before they break."

"It's time for us to start doing some of that stuff," he said.

The lift is being paid for mostly through a temporary 1 percent sales tax extended by voters in 2005. Ski area managers piggybacked construction on a state weather station project that lowered installation costs.

Eaglecrest is closed today for Christmas. It will reopen Saturday through Jan. 4.

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