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The Core of Hohe Mut Mountain Gondola

Part 2: How Obergurgl is getting ready for the new skiing season

Obergurgl’s Hohe Mut Mountain Gondola is a true work animal featuring about 2000 operating hours per year – in summer and winter alike. The technical maintenance team is working just as hard as the gondola does. I paid a visit to the Deputy Operations Manager Alexander Leiter and his team – I was allowed to indulge in the heart of Hohe Mut Gondola.

Alexander takes a close look at the 6-sided V-belts that drive the track.

Meeting point: Hohe Mut Middle Station

In winter skiers and riders are speeding down here but this time I drive uphill on the rough gravel road in my VW Polo car until I reach the middle station of Hohe Mut Mountain Gondola. At the same time a Pick-up stops at the middle station, he belongs to Alexander Leiter, Deputy Operations Manager of the Obergurgl Lift Company. The 40-year old guy from Längenfeld has been working for the Lift Companies of Obergurgl-Hochgurgl since 1994. First he was a lift assistant in Hochgurgl for 11 years, then he changed to Obergurgl. After several machine operator trainings and further education, he was and still is responsible for revision and maintenance works of the mountain lifts in Obergurgl. We leave the gondola terminal, heading for the lower floor of the middle station. Alexander explains that there are two teams of 12 people each taking care of all lift maintenance works in Obergurgl. One team is responsible for the “light” mountain lifts like 4-seater chairlifts or T-bar lifts. The second group centers only on the “heavy” mountain lifts like Hohe Mut Gondola. I will meet them in person very soon.

With surgical precision ...

Hohe Mut Gondola features 90 cabins, one of them is currently suspended from a hook. Hubert, Armin and Manuel from Längenfeld (looks like a nearly perfect place for lift experts) are taking off the huge pole in order to dismantle and to service it. They accurately check the bolts and lubricate the box made of plastic and copper. While Hubert and Manuel are busy with the huge suspension device Armin starts to disassemble the cabin’s clamp – with surgical precision. Accuracy is most important as the clamp is the connecting part between the cabin and the track rope. All clamps are entirely dismantled, cleaned and lubricated by testing also the level of tensile strength: a minimum of 23 kilonewton (equal to approx. 2350 kg) is absolutely required. As Hohe Mut Mountain Gondola has already been operating for 10 years it is essential to check the cabin’s tie rods. 4 of such rods lift the weight of an entire cabin (an empty cabin weighs about 900 kg). The tie rods are checked by the team first, afterwards they are officially examined and accepted by TÜV Österreich, applying magneto-inductive methods. In case there would be a crack in one of the tie rods, all rods of the same type (in all cabins) must be replaced. “Luckily we didn’t have this case until now,” Alexander adds.

Hubert (left) and Armin dismantling a suspension rod. In the background you can see the pulleys.
View into the heart of the Hohe Mut Bahn

Engine & Co.

A glimpse into the heart of Hohe Mut Gondola

Alexander takes me to the core of Hohe Mut Mountain Gondola. The whole system is driven by a three-phase motor and the transmission unit combined with the hexagon V-belts. In the background: emergency engine and safety break which must carry the mountain gondola’s entire load (complete one-sided load) in an emergency.

Rope ahead!

During the summer months – weather permitting – the technical maintenance team sets out for a “ramble” to service all lift towers, rope pulleys and batteries. They use a special mounting cabin attached to the track rope. A minimum of 4 persons is required for changing the heavy, 50 kg rope pulleys. This procedure is similar to changing car tires and necessary, more or less, every three years. At Hohe Mut Mountain Gondola 140 rope pulleys were replaced this year.

Mounting basket

We are ready for winter to come!

Is there still something to do? “At Steinmannbahn we have to change a couple of clamps and springs for the “bubbles” weather-protection shields. Basically we are ready to go into operation,” Alexander states. He is very proud of his expert team and can always rely on them when it comes to the yearly held maintenance works. If you ask Alexander which part of his job he loves most his answer is short: “Simply everything. The huge area of responsibilities and the job’s variety. We love every winter season kick-off just as much as we love the end of winter, looking forward to climbing the lift towers anew.” While Alexander, Hubert, Armin and Manuel enjoy their well-deserved lunch break, my VW Polo takes me down to the valley floor. It’s really incredible how much invisible work is done in the ski area throughout the seasons – I will remember these “unseen heroes” on my next Hohe Mut Gondola ride in winter!

You have missed Part 1 of this interesting report? HERE you can read more about Hochgurgl getting ready for the skiing season.

This article was initially published on 27.10.2017 and was updated.