South of today’s Thaynes Chair Lift loading station is the Thaynes shaft, a western shaft of the Silver King Coalition Mine.
As the Great Depression swept across the USA, metal prices plummeted nationwide and Park City’s mining economy struggled. In 1933, President Roosevelt announced the government would purchase domestically mined silver at a premium. The news prompted the Silver King Mining Company to dig a deep shaft to access the Spiro Tunnel 1,800 feet below and explore for ore bodies.
The steel headframe, shaft house and headquarters were completed early in 1937. The shaft reached the Spiro Tunnel in May 1939 and provided access to new ore, while helping ventilate some of the old workings. Sinking the shaft, however, created vast quantities of waste rock. Needing to remove this overburden material quickly and inexpensively, a long wooden conveyor was installed to carry the rock away, creating the enormous gray pile of rock just west of the shaft.
Thaynes Canyon ground had produced great wealth for the owners of the Crescent Mine to the north, the Apex and Keystone Mines to the south, and the California Comstock owners to the southwest. Silver King Coalition owners built this complex to continue prospecting the surrounding area. Unfortunately, the price of silver collapsed and the Thaynes Shaft was closed to mining in 1947.
The equipment was resurrected to serve from 1964 through 1969 as the world’s most unique ski lift. An electric motor pulled skiers in purpose built man cars through the Spiro Tunnel to the base of the Thaynes Shaft. Then the Nordberg Electric hoist lifted skiers up the 1800’ shaft to ski in Thaynes Canyon. It operated as a primary lift on windy days when the Gondola couldn't run and otherwise to delight intrepid skiers with the fascinating world of underground mining. A real old timer to Park City skiing is one who was lucky enough to have participated in this unusual arrangement.
For many years after the hoist ceased to bring skiers to the surface to ski, tourists and history buffs were treated to a ride through the underground tunnels to the collar of the West End shaft where a museum of mining was arranged. Guides were professionally trained to tell the story of mining in Park City. The rusty old cars, especially built to transport tourists, are on exhibit at the Park City Museum. Today, the Spiro Tunnel is maintained by Park City Municipal because it is a major source of drinking water for the town.