A year after initial preparations began for two new chairlifts at Bridger Bowl, folks with the ski hill say they're finally finished with the Alpine and Powder Park lifts. Yet, before the new triple-chairs can take their first load of skiers this season, a group of experts must run a battery of tests to ensure the lifts are safe. We were there for a some of the testing, Saturday.
Bridger Bowl Marketing Director Doug Wales chats with workers as they prepare to load test the new Powder Park chair. It's one of two new triple chairs replacing the old Alpine riblet.
Wales tells us, folks at the ski area are excited about what the chairs will bring to the mountain.
"These two lifts really will provide access to about 500 acres of really good skiing for upper-beginner, intermediate skiers and snowboarders," says Wales.
The Powder Park and Alpine Lifts triple the capacity of the old Alpine riblet from 1,100 people an hour to 3,300 an hour.
Plus, Wales says the new loading carpets are ideal for beginners and intermediates to load comfortably while allowing the lift to stay at a full speed of 550 feet per minute, fast for a lift of its kind.
"We're really able to serve the upper beginner, intermediate skiers and snowboarders a lot better, now," explains Wales.
A week ago, workers put the finishing touches on the two lifts. Now, it's time to ensure they're working the way they should.
Workers load three buckets onto each chair, filling them with water for what's called a load test.
"This is definitely the moment of truth in terms of the construction of new lifts," says Wales.
Each of the buckets filled with water weighs 206 pounds for a total of 618 pounds on each chair. They'll run a series of trials, a dozen or more, testing safety circuits and brakes, adjusting as they go.
"Can it pick up that load and get going and how long does it take to stop and how far is that stop? What is the reaction up here when we are stopping?" explains Sktrac Lifts Service Department Manager Wu Murray.
Murray shows us around the engine room of the Powder Park Lift.
"This does all the work all day long. The output shaft of this motor drives a belt which, in turn, comes back into the gear box here which turns the big bull wheel underneath," Murray says.
He explains, the load test is a slow process but a necessary one to ensure all three brakes work, that the lift can handle a roll back or whatever else it may encounter during normal operations.
The new Alpine Lift passed the tests, Friday, now, the new Powder Park lift could be less than a day away from becoming full operational and ready for the season.
It's why, for folks with Bridger Bowl, opening day can't come soon enough.
"An opportunity to fully enjoy a beautiful part of the mountain," says Wales.
A crew of inspectors, engineers, designers, electricians and folks from the Forest Service were all on hand to oversee the tests.
Once the lifts pass the load test, an inspector will ride the lift to make sure it runs as smoothly with people as it does with buckets.