Whitefish Chair Closed by Slump

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SAM Magazine-Whitefish, Mont., June 21, 2011-Whitefish Mountain's Chair One, the main lift from the base area used for scenic lift rides and carrying mountain bikes in summer, has been closed indefinitely after a slump caused a tower to move.

On Saturday, opening day for summer activities, Whitefish Mountain Resort's lift maintenance crew noticed a slump in the ground-a section of the slope was gradually sliding downhill-25 feet above tower six, likely caused by heavy moisture this spring. "We've had a lot of rain after a lot of snow over the winter, and everything's soggy," said spokeswoman Riley Polumbus.

Chair One is a detachable Doppelmayr quad lift equipped with auto-stop modes and alarms to alert operators to problems. The lift ran until close at 6 p.m. without any significant warnings. Lift maintenance and lift operators continued to monitor the area and the lift throughout the day. In the afternoon, the area around the slump was marked with flags.

On Sunday morning the area was re-inspected and crews noted that the slump had grown overnight. During a visual inspection of the lift, they determined that tower six was about four inches out of plumb. Chairs and gondola cars were removed from the line to release tension on the lift cable and to enable crews to tie back and secure the tower.

Several investigators-a hydrologist, soil engineer, and lift engineer from Doppelmayr-were expected on the scene by today. A helicopter is scheduled to remove the tower today also.

Chair One's closure will disrupt all summer activities at the summit of Whitefish and renders the summit restaurant inaccessible. All hiking and mountain biking trails under Chair One are also closed. Whitefish hopes to run another lift to provide access to mountain biking and hiking as the snow melts; a lower lift also provides access to some trails.

Other open facilities include the Alpine Slide, Zip Line Tours, Walk in the Treetops, and lower-mountain cross-country biking trails. Chair 6 and Chair 9 are running and the Base Lodge Café and Base Lodge Bar also are open.

"We will be putting all necessary resources towards assessing the situation, finding a solution, and getting our scenic lift up and running as soon as the lift is back to engineering standards," said Dan Graves, president of Whitefish Mountain Resort. "Our main concern is for the safety of our customers and employees."