CASPER, Wyo. — The Casper City Council unanimously agreed to a $141,940 bandage for the aging main lift at Hogadon Ski Area, but several members reiterated their desire to take a closer look at the $6.37 million in “vital” investments recommended by a 2013 master plan.
“When the lift jams or stops, right now, (ski area staff members) don’t have any way of tracking down where the problem is to fix it quickly and get it moving again,” said Assistant City Manager Linda Witko at Tuesday night’s regular meeting. “This system is required to bring it up to national standards for visitor safety … it will allow staff to operate the chair digitally and will make it safer and easier at the ski area.”
Bald Eagle Lifts, a Boise, Idaho, contractor, will replace the old drive and control systems and update the brake and emergency brake systems on the main chairlift this offseason.
Some council members cringed at the thought of spending money upgrading an old chairlift that the master plan recommends they replace with a four-seat chairlift as early as this summer. Witko assured them the new system was essential to operations until that lift is replaced.
“The ski lift will be $5-million plus, it’s a huge, huge expenditure to be discussed at length before anything is done,” said Vice Mayor Charlie Powell. “This is a relatively small amount of money to keep (the ski area) operating.”
The master plan estimates $2 million for the new lift.
Witko also told council members not getting the new system could possibly affect their insurance rates.
“The city is being asked to invest a lot of money in Hogadon,” said Councilman Keith Goodenough. “We started small with the magic carpet (lift), and I think that was very successful, and that’s why I supported that, but I have my doubts about investing the full amount of $13 million from the master plan.”
The master plan recommends $11.58 million in capital investments, but singles out $6.37 million in projects vital to the ski area’s survival.
Without significant progress in the next three years – including the 2013-14 season – Hogadon runs the risk of closing because of equipment and building failures, the plan warns.
The city spent $75,000 developing the master plan at the urging of ski patrollers interested in a new building. So far, the council has approached that plan in a piecemeal fashion. Last year, the council purchased two snow guns for $73,700 and a “magic carpet” beginner lift for $191,000.
The council planned to build a combined ski patrol and maintenance building, but backed off after learning the $460,000 estimated by the master plan consultants was likely woefully underpriced.
City council will take up the master plan and ski patrol building issues at its Tuesday night work session, 4:30 p.m. in the council chambers.