For many of us, the thought of being stuck high above the runs, dangling from a lift chair is a possibility which one wishes to ignore. But for nearly 90 skiers, it became a reality on Wednesday when wind gusts caused a mechanical problem at Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah.
The Peruvian-built ski lift stopped Wednesday afternoon when sensors to detected a cable pops out of alignment. While the system didn’t completely come off the wheel-relay system, the resort decided to evacuate the 89 skiers from the lift.
Ski patrol workers helped riders onto the ground using a harness system and wooden seat. Snowbird personnel climbed the lift towers, helped passengers attach a harness system and sit on a wooden seat, then slowly lowered them to the ground.
Some skiers were stuck on the chair lift for up to two hours while ski patrol used a harness to belay the guests down. Skiers then received a free lunch and a voucher for a day of skiing.
This is not as uncommon as one might hope – last ski season during the week between Christmas day and New Years a mechanical failure on the Pioneer Express chairlift at Winter Park, Colorado stranded skiers and riders for three hours in blizzard-like conditions. There too high winds, estimated at 50 to 60 miles per hour, caused a chair on the Pioneer lift to swing and jam into the top terminal.
Two guests fell out of the chair but were not injured. The jam caused mechanical failure of the lift, and Winter Park ski patrollers performed a lift evacuation for all 115 passengers that were stranded in the strong wind.
Twelve evacuation teams helped belay guests from the Pioneer lift with suspended ropes and rescue chairs. The longest people were stranded was three hours. Must have seemed like an eternity.