The Garaventa cable lift in Squaw Valley, California, the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, was installed in 1968, featuring cabins with a 120-passenger capacity, at that time the largest in the world. The lift operates during the winter season for both skiing and sightseeing, and is open in the summertime for sightseeing.
The cable lift undergoes maintenance on a yearly basis. Lately, the spherical roller bearings in the haul rope deflection sheaves and bull wheel have been replaced. These medium-size bearings carry a load of some 30 tons.
The original SKF bearings have lasted for more than 40 years of service and were replaced with new SKF bearings as a preventive measure.
But what to do with the old bearings? Jonathan Millar, a cable lift operator at Squaw Valley, had an idea.
Millar had moved to Tahoe in 2004 after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at the University of New Hampshire. “It was the typical ‘move to a ski town after college and log as many ski days as possible’ story,” Millar says.
“Within weeks of arriving in Tahoe I landed a job as a cable lift operator and have remained at the lift ever since. Currently, I’m the assistant manager.”
For some years, Millar has been welding nut-and-bolt sculptures, which he sells at small local art shows. “I decided to try mounting my sculptures to bearings, creating an interactive art piece, which really gave the art life,” Millar says.
His art is primarily showcased at Riverside Studios, an art store in Truckee, California, as well as at the Squaw Valley retail store. But anyone who is interested in the afterlife of a bearing can take a look at Millar’s Pinterest page at www.pinterest.com/jonnym360/sports-nuts.