The lower section of the Excalibur Gondola will re-open today,
Whistler Blackcomb announced Tuesday evening that the B.C.
Safety Authority had reinstated the operating permit for the lower line of
Blackcomb’s Excalibur Gondola following inspections Tuesday. Repair work on
tower 4 was completed Monday and testing took place throughout Tuesday in
accordance with B.C. Safety Authority and Doppelmayr test protocol.
The Excalibur Gondola will be in full operation as of Dec. 24.
“We are extremely pleased with the efficiency in which we have
been able to return this lift to operation,” said Wayne Wiltse, Whistler
Blackcomb’s lift maintenance manager. “The tower has been rebuilt, and the
cable has been inspected. They have both been non-destructively tested to
ensure they meet all code requirements. A thorough inspection, as outlined in
Whistler Blackcomb’s Safety Management Plan, and following procedures recommended
by the lift manufacturer, has been undertaken to ensure the safety of our
guests. In addition, the B.C. Safety Authority has been on-site Tuesday doing
its own inspection before reinstating our operating certificate.”
The lower section of the Excalibur Gondola had been closed
since tower 4 collapsed on Dec. 16. Twelve people were injured in the collapse.
The most serious injury was a broken vertebrae.
The upper portion of the Excalibur re-opened last week.
In accordance with the lift manufacturer’s test protocol,
Whistler Blackcomb lift maintenance crews perform a “sounding" test on the
towers to check for the presence of water. This test was considered an
effective way to check for the presence of water in towers. Following the
failure of tower 4, all Doppelmayr lift towers across Whistler Blackcomb were
checked for water build-up. This was done first by Whistler Blackcomb lift
maintenance crews on Tuesday night after the incident. A secondary inspection
was undertaken by Whistler Blackcomb in conjunction with the B.C. Safety
Authority the next morning before operations commenced for the day. Since then,
B.C. Safety Authority has issued a Safety Order requiring all B.C. ski resorts
to inspect all lift towers for water, regardless of manufacturer. In light of
the Excalibur incident, Doppelmayr has revised its test protocol to now include
concrete filled towers.
The investigation into last week’s tower failure remains
ongoing. The cause of the tower failure was confirmed by early the next
morning, Dec. 17, and was due to an unusual situation called “ice-jacking.”
Water had accumulated within the tower, then transformed to ice to a point
whereby the pressure from the ice created a rupture that separated the two
sections of the tower. The force of the ice expansion and the subsequent
rupture has been estimated at 800 tonnes of pressure. Prior testing had not
revealed this ice build-up due to the tower being concrete-filled.
“Our commitment to safety at Whistler Blackcomb is
uncompromised,” said Doug Forseth, Whistler Blackcomb’s senior vice president
of operations. “We have been working around the clock with the authorities and
independent experts to understand what happened here last week. Through these
efforts, a new Safety Order from the B.C. Safety Authority, and a safety
bulletin from the lift manufacturer has been distributed to ski resort
operators in B.C. and to the industry, in the wake of this incident.”
Updated information about Tuesday’s incident on the lower line of the Excalibur Gondola will continue to be available for guests and media from the homepage at www.whistlerblackcomb.com.