A truly bizarre incident came to light tonight when Sunday River revealed the top terminal of its Spruce Peak Triple chairlift slid downhill and flipped on its side over the weekend. Scott Crowell, the resort’s lift maintenance manager discovered the damage on Sunday. From the pictures, it appears the foundation and return bullwheel moved together, with the tension of the lift and gravity sending the line to the ground. Thankfully, the lift does not operate in the summer and no one was injured.
According to Weather Underground, Bethel, Maine received nearly an inch of rain in the four days leading up to the discovery of the damage. Sunday River said the lift in question was last load tested in Fall 2015.
Spruce Peak is one of two Borvig triples remaining at Sunday River and its second oldest lift, built in 1986. Chairkit added a loading carpet at the bottom station in 2014. Spruce is 4,382 feet long and rises 1,211 feet with 17 towers and 177 chairs. In a statement, Sunday River noted, “Decisions on repairing or replacing the lift have not been made at this point and will depend on several factors, including the results of the investigation. The resort is committed to moving forward as quickly as possible.” The mountain is working with its insurance company, Willis MountainGuard, and state investigators. Presumably there is still time to get a brand new lift built in time for the coming 2016-2017 winter season if the order is placed soon. Alternatively, a lift manufacturer could come in and replace just the top terminal and any damaged chairs.
Boyne Resorts’ two mountains in Maine have seen more than their fair share of lift setbacks over the last decade. In July of 2007, also at Sunday River, the ground underneath the bottom terminal of the Little White Cap quad washed out but spared the terminal from completely collapsing. A Borvig lift at Sugarloaf de-roped injuring guests in December 2010 and another rolled back in March 2015. One of those chairlifts was completely replaced while the other received a new drive terminal. For more pictures of Spruce Peak before this incident, click here.
Based on the fact that this lift received significant damage, I wonder if it will be replaced by either a new chairlift or have a new return terminal constructed. I can almost see Sunday River relocating Lift 6 to replace this one as it does’t see the utilization it once did.
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I guess there’s also a chance the return terminal is perfectly fine and just needs a new foundation as it was bolted rather than set into concrete. The lift is 30 years old though so we’ll have to wait and see.
I hadn’t thought about using the North Peak equipment. They could also relocate the Oz quad. That lift certainly is a prime candidate to go somewhere more useful.
The reason why Oz should not be relocated is because the way they designed was as an experts lift. Literally, the lift was built so it is hard to get on just to prevent beginners from using it. I ski Sunday River a lot each year and Oz should stay there. I said replace Spruce and move the old lift to Quantum Leap as that slow lift sucks on a cold windy day and you wish it would go faster.
Everyone keeps going on about “which existing and useful lift (Oz and North Peak) should be used to replace Spruce”. If you took a good look at the pictures, the top terminal itself is still in useable condition, however due to the uncontrollable rain damage, the concrete footing will need to be repoured. Rain damage is nothing new to Sunday River (remember Little White Cap, and frankly the whole eastern side of the mountain in 2007), and I think they can have the Spruce Triple in operation with a repoured top terminal footing and the existing top terminal by the start of the 2016-2017 ski season.
I added a video to the post above which shows some of the line. The haul rope is sagging but most of the chairs are still in the air. Sunday River is asking everyone to stay away from Spruce Peak as the lift is still in a precarious state.