During an unannounced inspection in February, the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board identified 20 deficiencies at Hesperus Ski Area, which is expected to remain closed until mid-March to address the concerns.
Inspectors found problems with sign displays, record-keeping, general maintenance and insufficient training of employees, according to a five-page inspection report that Hesperus Ski Area provided this week to The Durango Herald.
The surprise annual inspection was done Feb. 20 and Feb. 21.
Hesperus Ski Area voluntarily closed Feb. 21 to address lift maintenance, including replacing “chair clips,” said spokeswoman Kim Oyler. Chair clips transition the carrier to the haul rope and must be tested annually.
“Safety is the No. 1 priority at the ski area, so Hesperus officials decided to close the resort in order to address those items, and ordered new replacement clips,” Oyler wrote in an email to the Herald. “All of the chair clips that require testing will be tested, and the ski area will remain closed until such tests are completed and any clips are replaced if necessary.”
She added: “Hesperus officials recognize that the ski area is extremely important to the community and are working diligently to get the ski area open again soon. Hesperus officials are working closely with the Colorado Passenger Tramway Board to address the concerns outlined in the inspection report.”
Hesperus Ski Area, 11 miles west of Durango along U.S. Highway 160, has 13 runs that can be accessed by a double chairlift. It was purchased last year by James Coleman, who added it to a portfolio of ski areas in the Southwest, including Purgatory Resort, Arizona Snowbowl, Sipapu Ski & Summer Resort in New Mexico and Pajarito Mountain in New Mexico.
Hesperus season passes are being honored at Purgatory Resort, 27 miles north of Durango.
The Passenger Tramway Safety Board inspects and registers ski lift devices across the state. Lee Rasizer, spokesman for the Department of Regulatory Agencies, declined to comment, saying it is an ongoing investigation.
The report said lift operators lacked sufficient training, and the ski area has not maintained proper training records for most operators.
“The lift operators were generally not familiar with the emergency procedures or daily preoperational inspection procedures,” the report says.
It also said management and maintenance employees do not follow operational rules and safety regulations of the lift, including scheduled maintenance work, daily preoperational inspections and record-keeping requirements.
Some deficiencies were technical in nature.
Other deficiencies were likely more visible to skiers, including a “Wait Here” sign missing from the lower terminal where passengers are supposed to wait for chairs to pass before moving to the loading point. And “Prepare to Unload” signs needed to be posted so they are visible to passengers as they approach the midway and top unloading areas, the report said.
Scheduled maintenance work also appeared to fall by the wayside.
“Only three of the eight weekly mechanical work orders were complete to date,” the report says.
If Hesperus Ski Area remains closed until the second week in March, its season likely will be nearing the end. The ski area closed March 7 last year, on Feb. 16 in 2015, and on March 12 in 2012. The closing date for 2013 and 2014 were not immediately available Tuesday.