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Copper's new American Eagle chairlift won't be open on Saturday

It was advertised to open to skiers and snowboarders on Saturday. Now, it's anyone's guess when Copper Mountain's newest lift could open.

DENVER — Copper Mountain's newest and most modern lift won't be open as planned Saturday due to what the company that installed the lift called "a few unforeseen technical issues."

9NEWS reporter Matt Renoux was covering testing of the American Eagle lift, which has a combination of chairs and gondolas, earlier this week when one of the empty gondolas malfunctioned. A spokesperson for Leitner-Poma, the company that installed the lift, said the gondola popped off the cable after hitting a piece of construction material.

Credit: Matt Renoux, KUSA
An empty gondola fell during testing at Copper Mountain Monday.

This is something the company said would not have happened if the lift weren't under construction, and said the gondola would not have popped off during normal circumstances.

"So the lift is still under construction and inadvertently a loose piece or unattached piece of building slipped in front of the grip when it was launched, we are already well into the repair," said Jon Mauch with Leitner-Poma. "There’s only minor damage to the lift and it’s not going to set us back at all."

On Thursday, the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board told 9NEWS the lift still wasn't licensed for service. A spokesperson for Copper Mountain said Thursday the hope is still for the lift to be in business to skiers and snowboarders by Saturday, but that's pending the CPTSB's inspection.

Colorado is the only state that requires inspectors be professional engineers, according to the CPTSB. The safety board said there are seven inspectors "with hundreds of years' experience in the ski industry." It also said inspectors are rotated each year to get new eyes on different areas.

The national standard requires four inspections a year for each lift. They're inspected in the fall and review mechanical and electrical systems, according to the CPTSB fact sheet. Unannounced inspections happen during the winter. Those look at the operation, training of lift operations and the planning of the ski patrol for evacuations.

As of Nov. 19, the CPTSB said 764 inspections have happened this year with more expected before the year's end.

In a statement, Rick Spear, the president of Leitner-Poma of America, said several backup power systems on the American Eagle lift aren't performing up to standards.

While he didn't provide a timeline, he did say crews are working to complete the project as soon as possible.

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