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Aerial tram returning to service at Alyeska Resort

Jill Burke
High winds impaled the Alyeska Resort aerial tram atop Mount Alyeska on New Year's Eve, leaving passengers suspended high above Girdwood, terrified, for more than three hours.

Alyeska Resort, the most popular ski mountain in Alaska, plans to reopen its aerial tram on Saturday, just in time to whisk skiers to the slopes and swooning couples to a Valentine's Day dinner at Seven Glaciers, the resort's mountaintop restaurant.

Passengers, however, will not be traveling at top speeds. A trip up the mountain – offered four times an hour – is expected to take eight minutes.

The Alyeska aerial tram has been out of service since New Year's Eve, when an in-transit accident damaged one of the two pods that ferry people up and down the mountain. The resort says a 40 mph gust of wind blew the tram into a tower, where it became hung up. Trapped passengers waited hours for an evacuation complicated by avalanche conditions on Alyeska's North Slope.

An 8,000 pound ballast car made of steel will take the place of the damaged tram pod, acting as counterweight to the single car that will be ferrying passengers.

The Alyeska tram is scheduled to be taken out of service at the end of the ski season, allowing time for repairs. The resort plans to re-open it to summer tourists toward the end of May.

Seven Glaciers , which has remained closed since the New Year's Eve accident, will reopen on Valentine's Day. The small food court Glacier's Express, located at the top of the tram, will be open weekends and holidays.

In a press release announcing the tram's return to service, the resort said it had the option to take the tram out of service for the entire season, but felt it was important for “season pass-holders, skiers, riders and resort guests” to have access to it.

Contact Jill Burke at jill(at)alaskadispatch.com