JHMR trench dig

Thursday at 2 a.m., Lower Valley Energy and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort staff dig a 500-foot trench for a new power cable to restore electricity to the Bridger Gondola and Rendezvous Lodge.

Five hundred feet of cable, a frozen mountainside and a dozen guys with shovels.

That was the scene Lower Valley Energy and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort staffers found themselves in at 2 a.m. Thursday as they worked through the night to restore power to the Bridger and Sweetwater gondolas and to Rendezvous Lodge.

The problem, snowmaking manager Austin Irby said, was a burned wire that took hours to locate near the Casper lift. By the time the new cable was ready and energy rerouted, everyone was too exhausted to cheer.

“You know, we said, ‘Thank you ... now let’s get out of here,’ ” Irby said.

Resort employees first noticed a power problem more than 24 hours earlier when their snowmaking system shut down Tuesday evening. Such failures aren’t rare, given the high voltage required to make snow, Irby said. So they switched back a tripped fuse at the substation. Then it failed again.

“Our whole panel went out,” Irby said, describing a massive blown fuse.

Lower Valley linemen, assisted by resort staff and snowmobiles, spent most of Tuesday night scouring the resort, checking each power station with mounting confusion.

“Nothing was where we thought it would be,” Irby said. “Nothing was making sense.”

With power still not restored by Wednesday’s opening, the resort was forced to close the Bridger and Sweetwater gondolas, as well as the Marmot Double and Teton Quad.

Casper Restaurant and Rendezvous Lodge lacked heat and electricity, causing food to spoil in warm fridges and curtailing ski instruction, Irby said.

“I can’t think of a single department at that place that was not affected,” he said.

The crew finally found the faulty wire Wednesday around 10 p.m. and set to work cutting 500 feet of fresh cable from a spool, hauling it and its conduit up to the Casper lift by snowcat, then digging a trench through frozen dirt and snow.

Irby said the trench was done in less than an hour. Done by headlamp and in knee-deep snow at 2 in the morning, that is.

Irby commended Lower Valley Energy’s team members for their perseverance and expertise: “Those guys are truly the technicians. We were just the labor,” he said.

Because the wire that failed was part of a trio of cords, “the other two then are suspect” and will need to be replaced, Irby said, likely this summer.

“We will have a more permanent solution in collaboration with the JHMR,” Lower Valley spokesman Brian Tanabe pledged.

Contact Evan Robinson-Johnson at 732-5901 or ERJ@jhnewsandguide.com.

Evan Robinson-Johnson covers issues residents face on a daily basis, from smoky skies to housing insecurity. Originally from New England, he has settled in east Jackson and avoids crowds by rollerblading through the alleyways.

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