It’s a typical day at Snowmass. You’re aboard the Village Express chairlift with your six-year-old doing what any reasonable adult would: ticking off the lift towers as they go by using the voice of Sesame Street’s Count Von Count. Six, seven, eight, nine, nine-A. Vhat? Vhat is this? Vhy is there a tower 9A? Vlet us explain.
After the lift was completed in the fall of 2005, the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board ran standard safety tests four days before the six-pack’s scheduled Thanksgiving Day opening. The Village Express passed, but the CPTSB remained concerned with the stretch of cable between towers 9 and 10, where the lift passes directly over a water-treatment plant.
To allay their fears, CPTSB representatives requested an “emergency stop test.” Lift technicians loaded three or four chairs with a weight equivalent to six professional football players per chair and fired the lift up at full speed. Once the weighted chairs arrived between towers 9 and 10, the lift was brought to a full stop. It groaned, and the chairs swung within four feet of the building. The required distance? Five feet. All together now—d’oh!
The lift was still certified to operate on opening day, just at a reduced speed. The design for tower 9A began immediately, and in just three short weeks the tower was up and the lift was running at its usual clip.