For the first time in 24 years (and post-Lift Engineering) an electrical or mechanical problem has led to a fatality on an American ski lift. The Quickdraw quad at Granby Ranch will re-open Tuesday after the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board reached an interim operation agreement with the ski area. The news comes almost two weeks after the December 29th accident, in which a mother and her two daughters fell from a chair. Unfortunately, the agreement notes that a “rare dynamic event” due to issues with the electronic drive/control system caused the riders’ fall. Environmental factors, weather and/or rider behavior were not to blame.
The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, which oversees the tramway board, conducted extensive testing in addition to interviewing witnesses and engineers over the past 10 days. Mother Kelly Huber and her two children were riding chair number 58 when it came into contact with tower 5 due to irregular line dynamics. The lift had been load tested less than four weeks prior, on Dec. 5th.
The operation agreement with the CPTSB is stringent. Quickdraw’s electronic drive must be disconnected (this particular lift has two diesels – auxiliary and evacuation.) Lift mechanics, operators and ski patrollers all must perform a line check prior to operation each day. Additional visual line and ground checks will be required to be documented every two hours. For the first three days, the lift will only be permitted to move 600 feet per minute, even though the diesel auxiliary is rated for up to 900 fpm. After two additional days at 700 fpm, Granby Ranch will be permitted to operate the lift at 800 fpm for the rest of the season. Presumably this summer the lift will get a completely new drive.
The operation agreement is not a final report and does not identify any acts or omissions leading up to the accident, but merely outlines the conditions under which the lift can re-open. In a press release dated today, Granby Ranch echoed its condolences to the family of the victims and affirmed its commitment to safety. “The Quick Draw Express has been operating safely at Granby Ranch over the 16 seasons since its installation,” the company noted. “Granby Ranch has followed all prescribed protocols in operating the lift.”
We haven’t heard the end of this one. Hopefully the final report will provide some insight into how this type of event can be avoided in the future.
Update 1/10/17: Apparently a third-party company installed a new ABB drive last summer that ramped up and/or down too quickly, leading to the dynamic event.