The last ten days of the year is the busiest part of the ski season in Aspen. And smack in the middle of it, the Aspen Skiing Company was forced to close the fastest way to the top of Aspen Mountain. The Silver Queen Gondola was out of commission for three days, thanks to a broken bearing. Skiers had to take several lifts to the top, creating a kind of “Aspen unplugged” experience. That is, until the Ski Co had a private jet deliver the replacement part.
Below is a transcript of reporter Elise Thatcher's story:
Reporter: As of Thursday, January 2nd, Aspen Skiing Company didn't have an estimate for how much money was lost when the gondola was out of commission. Jeff Hanle is a spokesman for the Aspen Skiing Company.
Jeff Hanle: "We were able to get out of ahead of this thing and notify everyone who was in resort, through blast emails and social media and through the lodges and the property management firms, and send them to other mountains, or let them know they could still access Aspen Mountain via the lifts. And we did see some people choose to not ski Aspen Mountain on those days, and the other mountains were more than able to pick up the slack."
Reporter: Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk got the biggest bump of skiers who decided to avoid Aspen Mountain. There were about twenty thousand skiers on all four mountains on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday…. about what mountain managers expected. On average, walk up customers make up ten percent of ski customers, so Hanle doesn't expect a big loss from losing any of that traffic. There were some complaints, but Hanle says Ski Co didn’t suffer too much.
Hanle: "You know it really went as well as we could have possibly hoped for it to go. I was up there for two days straight, sort of at the bottom of the gondola, talking to people and explaining things, and passing out stuff. And we were very grateful to the way that our guests reacted."
Reporter: Those good spirited reactions may been partly because of a certain popular breakfast food at one of the lifts.
Hanle: "We did a free jalapeno bacon, a hundred and fifty pounds, at the base of the Shadow Mountain lift."
Reporter: Donuts were also part of the calming campaign. And when it came to fixing the gondola, a company intimately familiar with the machinery was able to lend a hand.
Hanle: "It ended up Poma, who built the lift, found the part for us. They reached out to their suppliers, and it was in somewhere in Western Pennsylvania, owned by a company that makes bearings for everything."
Reporter: And Ski Co chartered a private jet to fly it here.