State inspects Gatlingburg Sky Lift as it prepares to reopen

GATLINBURG (WATE) – The sign in the window still says closed, but five months after the wildfires Gatlinburg’s Sky Lift is moving again. State inspectors filled lift chairs with 500 pound water weights and sent them up and down Crockett Mountain.

Thomas Jackson, an elevator inspector with the state of Tennessee, says Wednesday’s inspection was all about safety.

“Right now, they’re loading all these barrels up,” said Jackson. “We are doing a 110 percent load test to verify the unit can safely handle the load as it’s designed.”

Julie Ard with the Gatlinburg Sky Lift says the inspection brings the company one step closer to reopening.

Previous story: Gatlinburg Sky Lift gets upgrade

“We still have a lot of work to do, but this is really important in the project timeline for us to be able to pass this inspection,” said Ard.

When the wildfires destroyed sections of the sky lift, the company made the decision to install a brand new system. Jackson says this system in the “latest and greatest” of its kind.

“This is a fantastic piece of equipment,” said Jackson. “I’m very impressed with the operations of it, with the safety of it. It’s a really nice piece of equipment.”

The new equipment will offer an improved experience for riders.

“It’s a smoother ride, newer equipment,” said Ard. “We are also going from a two place seat to three place seats on the lift.”

Ard says reopening is not only important for the town but also for the company.

“We’re eager to get all of our team members back to work as quickly as possible,” said Ard. “We’ve been able to maintain employment for a good number of our team members since the fires, so we’re eager to get everyone back to work.”

She says it is also exciting for those who love the lift’s mountain views

“We’ve had so many inquiries and so many well wishes from our riders,” said Ard. “There’s so much history for so many people who have ridden this lift for numerous annual events and they’re really excited to be able to come back.”

The bottom portion of the lift area still needs to have the loading and unloading platforms installed and general grounds maintenance. The bottom portion is expected to open by Memorial Day weekend of 2017 and will allow riders to ride the lift. The top portion of the lift area suffered more damage during the wildfires and will open at a later date.

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