Bubble Blog: Almost Done!

When our mountain ops guys told me that once the parts for the terminals (the bottom and top structures of the lift) get here they will be assembled awfully fast, I was thinking “fast” was going to be maybe a few days. I mean, the terminals for six-passenger bubble lifts aren’t exactly small – or light! A few days? Maybe it took that much time to finish what I would call the “detail” work like connecting wires, assembling the roof and cranking down some nuts and bolts. But for the bottom terminal’s three main parts (the two side panels and the contour, which is basically the end of the terminal that houses the wheel and pulley system that takes the chairs from facing downhill around to facing uphill) to be lifted into place, it took one day…including a lunch break. Unbelievable. One day for the bottom of the Bluebird Express to go from a couple of big, steel supports that resemble whale’s tails to a big, beautiful bottom terminal with “#17 BLUEBIRD EXPRESS” adorned on each side.

The bull wheel protruding from the carriage assembly

Dave, “Is this thing supposed to be here?” Dennis, “Yes, Dave. Don’t joke around about that.”

I’ve said it over and over again – this lift and the installation process I’ve been lucky enough to witness never ceases to amaze me.

Just yesterday we saw the real meat and potatoes of the Bluebird Express arrive – the carriage assembly. The carriage assembly is comprised of the 800 horsepower electric motor, the bull wheel, the emergency breaking system, two gigantic fuel tanks for the two gigantic 400 horsepower diesel back-up motors and a bunch of galvanized steel. Total weight of the whole thing is about 52 thousand pounds.

75-ton crane on location to lift carriage assembly from delivery flatbed to the flatbed it travelled on to the summit

Let’s talk about our carriage assembly’s journey from Grand Junction, CO, real quick. The cargo came on a flatbed and since it is an oversized load it was accompanied by two escort vehicles. Being an oversized load, there are many restrictions and rules the driver needs to follow and these rules vary by state. In many states oversized loads cannot travel on weekends, holidays, at night or even when it’s raining. The driver must get specific routes from each respective state’s DOT to ensure they travel on roads that can handle the width and the weight of the load. The truck left last week, but with this past Friday being a holiday running right into the weekend he had to park it someplace just outside of New York State. Back on the road Monday, he had his designated route from the DOT and was scheduled to get here around mid-day. The only problem was, part of the route was under construction and wasn’t able to handle the 45+ton truck, trailer and cargo. The driver had to back up about half a mile in order to turn around and find the alternate route. The convoy got here around 3:30pm yesterday, much to the delight of everyone.

Oversize load is right!

The reason I took the time to tell you about that is I think it’s pretty amazing how much goes into this project, including the amount of effort it takes just to get the parts here. I hope you guys think it’s as cool as I do! But I think we all agree that the coolest thing is going to be seeing all 102 of those beautiful bubble chairs traveling from base to summit with our butts sitting in one of them!

So, here’s the deal as of right now with where we are in the installation process:
The 75-ton crane made its second trip up to the summit yesterday evening along with the carriage assembly. It lifted the carriage assembly into place today so now crews are doing the “detail” work.

The haul rope (the cable the carries the chairs) is going to start getting strung as early as Wednesday and will be spliced towards the end of the week.

A vast majority of the bubble chairs are on the rail system in the Birdhouse with only a few remaining in Lot A awaiting hanger assembly and placement onto the rail system.

The metal roof on the Birdhouse will be completely installed by Wednesday.

That’s the rundown! Looking forward to seeing all of you here for our Grand Opening for the 2011/2012 winter season and the First Flight of the Bluebird Express! Keep checking back here for the most up-to-date info on all of that and don’t forget to book your Bluebird Ski & Stay Special!

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