Thursday, February 29, 2024
40.0°F

Ski resort has renewed confidence in Chair 4

by Nick Polumbus
| January 31, 2024 12:00 AM

We know many of you have questions about our new Chair 4, the Snow Ghost Express, and I wanted to take a moment to answer them as best I can.

First off, we want to thank everyone for their patience as we have worked through our various issues with Chair 4. Believe me, we feel everyone's frustration. All of our employees feel the stress of this, our lift mechanics absolutely feel the stress of this and, believe me, I certainly feel it. We want this chair to spin consistently more than anyone.

The first point I want to make is that any challenges we have had with Chair 4 this season are separate from the challenges of last winter. As we have identified issues with the lift, we have remedied them with the manufacturer. We have been diligent and stayed on top of these challenges at every step of the way. In no way is this a matter of missed or deferred maintenance from the summer.

I also want to be clear that this is a matter of inconvenience and not safety. We would never put skiers on any of our lifts if we thought there was any kind of safety issue. But for that inconvenience, we sincerely apologize to all of our skiers and riders.

We believe the most recent issues with Chair 4 were resolved a couple of weeks ago. But we wanted to be as confident as we possibly could before reopening this lift to our guests this season. That's why we've been spinning the lift without passengers for hours and hours over the past two weeks, monitoring it constantly. The longer it has operated without issue, the more confident we have become that it's working as it's supposed to. We started boarding guests this past weekend, and that's a demonstration of our renewed confidence in this machine.

A number of rumors have floated around town about Chair 4. The rumors tend to be variations on themes of power and of the cable itself. First off, the power supply is completely adequate. Are some of the bugs we have been dealing with electrical in nature? Yes, they are, but they are within the machine itself, and between our electrical mechanics and the manufacturer's electrical engineers we believe we have chased those issues away. The cable, or what we call the haul rope, definitely presented its challenges through the installation, but those challenges do not impact, nor will they impact, the operation of the chairlift.

At the end of the day, we have a highly complex machine that was engineered and installed in a very challenging supply chain environment. I truly believe supply chain disruptions are the root of our issues and that we have moved past the larger concerns associated with that, but we will stay diligent about smaller problems as they arise.

One final point: I am fully aware that when a brand-new, state-of-the-art chairlift sits idle for a significant amount of time, it is a tough look for us. It heightens people's stress (mine as much as anyone's) and when we have other more routine chairlift issues, those look even worse than they perhaps really are. Like any machine, chairlifts have issues from time to time. We have a rockstar group of lift mechanics who take a lot of pride in their work and who have done and will continue to do an excellent job of maximizing the availability of all our chairs.

So, we're not going to fold our hand and give up. We're going to stay diligent throughout the rest of the winter, and we'll count our winnings when the season's done. In the meantime, let's take a look out the window, celebrate what appears to be winter showing up a month late and do some skiing. That is, after all, what we're here for.

Thanks, and have a great rest of your season!

Nick Polumbus is president of Whitefish Mountain Resort.


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