Chairs Collide on Opening Day at Tussey Mountain

Multiple media outlets are reporting chairs full of skiers and snowboarders slid into each other near the top of Tussey Mountain, Pennsylvania today, the first day of the season for the area. It appears four grips slipped down the haul rope and were stopped by a fifth grip and chair.  All of the chairs were occupied but thankfully, injuries to five people are being described as non-life threatening.  Passengers on the entire lift were brought down by rope.  A spokesman for the mountain told CBS News that an operator manually stopped the lift, which is a 1982 Borvig center pole model and one of two Borvig chairlifts at the ski area near State College.

Borvig brand lifts have been involved in at least six recent incidents including a deropement causing serious injuries at Sugarloaf in December 2010, a rollback at the same mountain in 2015, a tower separation in West Virginia in February 2016 and a foundation grout failure at Sunday River later that year.  Also in 2016, two chairs slid into each other on a relocated Borvig double at Granite Gorge, New Hampshire, sending two people to the hospital.

New York-based Borvig built 260 chair and surface lifts between 1962 and 1991, mostly in the eastern United States.  Approximately 170 of them still operate today.  A successor company, Partek Ski Lifts, still provides parts support for Borvig lifts and manufactures a small number of new lifts each year.

Update: Tussey Mountain has issued a statement noting the lift was previously inspected by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry Elevator Division.

25 thoughts on “Chairs Collide on Opening Day at Tussey Mountain

  1. Brian December 16, 2017 / 2:06 pm

    Jesus…is this an inherent defect in lift design or just cutting corners/poor attention to detail on standard maintenance?


    • Ryan December 16, 2017 / 3:57 pm

      It ain’t Jesus’s fault.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Max Hart December 16, 2017 / 5:26 pm

      I would bet poor attention to detail during regular maintenance. The same thing caused Spillway in 2010, King Pine in 2015, Timberline in 2016, and Granite Gorge in 2016. Attention to detail / proper regular maintenance / complying to Borvig recommended upgrades from 30 YEARS AGO could have prevented all of these accidents.
      The only one that truly could not have been prevented was the Spruce Peak Triple’s foundation failure in 2017. That could have happened to any lift. It’s not moving part that could be easily inspected caused the failure, instead it was the combined failure of the grout used 30 years ago and the excessive amounts of rain that would have washed out the foundation (which had happened at Sunday River before in July 2007 with the Little White Cap Quad (1988 Yan) after a truly massive amount a rain which washed out the terminal foundations, ).


  2. Jonathan December 16, 2017 / 2:34 pm

    If it was an inherent design issue, it would have been caught decades ago (a-la the Yan detachable grips). One has to really question inspection and load testing, considering this was the first day of operations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Max Hart December 16, 2017 / 5:13 pm

      Agreed. All it takes is a wrench to tighten these grips. The fact that this took place with five chairs in a row leads me to believe that these chairs were likely removed for NDT this past summer, and somebody did a poor job reattaching the chairs to the haul rope.


  3. Ryan December 16, 2017 / 3:58 pm

    Yes there is a higher concentration of Borvig lifts on the east coast so perhaps we are going to see more of them having accidents.. but.. I do have to wonder if we’ll start seeing Borvig’s replaced at a quicker rate now..


    • Peter Landsman December 16, 2017 / 4:01 pm

      Only one Borvig lift was removed in 2017 compared with five in 2016.


  4. Peter Landsman December 16, 2017 / 4:51 pm

    Pictures of the impressive effort by local fire departments and ski patrollers to free everybody. Well done.


    • Kerry Miller December 17, 2017 / 11:21 am

      This was a management failure plane and simple. I agree Borvig’s were not the best lifts, but the staff that inspected this lift before opening should have caught the grip migration and addressed the issue. It does not matter if it was a failure of design or a failure to hang the chairs correctly. Those grips didn’t just move the one time, a little paint and due diligence would have gone a long way to avoid the injuries, rope evac and story in the New York Times. Its not enough to say that a certain manufacturer was bad, I remember the Yan detachable grips (i think we kept one), Heron Poma grips. The bottom line is it is the mechanic inspecting the lift needs the experience, authority and support from above to address issues and avoid these situations.


  5. Northeast Chairlifts December 16, 2017 / 5:31 pm

    Ouch. I don’t feel safe riding the Borvig quads at Swain anymore… They are the same as these.


    • Peter Landsman December 16, 2017 / 5:35 pm

      My post simply pointed out a string of unfortunate incidents have involved Borvig lifts. As Max said above, the causes vary widely.


      • Northeast Chairlifts December 16, 2017 / 6:45 pm

        Yep. I agree. Borvig’s been pretty unlucky recently. It’s also a maintenance thing though. Also, can you look at the pictures I sent you?


  6. Mike Turley December 16, 2017 / 6:29 pm

    Easy to blame this accident on maintenance but it was management that made decision to purchase and operate lift since 1982


  7. Collin December 16, 2017 / 8:10 pm

    Is Borvig becoming the new Yan in terms of safety issues?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Max Hart December 16, 2017 / 8:35 pm

      Sadly, yes. The difference is that Yans experienced issues when they were only a few years old, while Borvigs are showing (mostly preventable) issues at 30+ years old. Also Yan was still around for while their issues took place and did nothing about it, whereas Borvig isn’t around anymore, and Partek is “sort of” around.


    • Collin December 17, 2017 / 8:08 am

      The thing I’ve noticed about Borvig lifts is a lot of them are at smaller mountains, which don’t have nearly as much money as the larger ones, and might cut corners on maintenance. The exception to this is Sugarloaf. I’m not counting Sunday River because what happened to Spruce Peak could have never been predicted, and could have happened to any manufacturer’s lift.

      Liked by 1 person

      • DoppelmayrFTW December 17, 2017 / 8:50 am

        It was the specific way the terminal was put in the ground that caused the issue, Borivig used cheap grout that was easily dissolved when water got to it, Borvig was known for cutting corners with towers, terminals etc, its just now finally catching up to them.


  8. Mark McFall December 17, 2017 / 8:29 pm

    Wow. Amazing how all you “doctors” can diagnose your patient while looking at a picture. The chairs weren’t taken down this summer and the lift was inspected on Friday. I’ll wait until someone puts hands on and inspects the darn thing. BTW, my kid was in the accident and I’m not looking to minimize anything. Almost all in the chairs that were involved were young staff who love the snow and have been blessed to have Tussey in their back yard and can ski/board regularly. Diagnosing anything from afar is grandiose and narcissistic. Doesn’t sound or feel good when I do it. On the positive side, ski patrol and first responders were magnificent.


    • Max Hart December 18, 2017 / 5:28 am

      So what you’re trying to say is that the lift was “inspected” the day before if opened? And chairs were NOT removed for NDT? Did a load test take place during this “inspection”?
      Sounds like somebody (the resort / lift maintenance) cut corners when it came to maintaining this lift. The whole point of a load test is to a) test breaking systems b) prevent grip slips like this. As I said before, it takes one wrench to tighten these grips, and clearly whoever is responsible for maintaining the lift during the offseason (lift maintenance at Tussey Mountain) did a poor job when it came to ensuring that the lift was safe for passengers before it opened.


      • Peter Landsman December 18, 2017 / 5:51 am

        Mark, thanks for your perspective and hopefully your child is recovering well.

        NDT refers to nondestructive testing. In the US, 20 percent of grips are required to be NDT’d each year. Typically, that means a fifth of the chairs on any given lift get removed each summer for their grips to be removed and tested.

        Max, a full dynamic load test is only required every seven years or when certain big ticket changes are made.

        I don’t think either of these requirements changed with the latest ANSI version but a lift mechanic can correct me if I’m wrong.


      • Max Hart December 18, 2017 / 7:21 am

        Ah ok, I wasn’t aware of the load test timeline. But I wonder what chairs were removed for NDT this past summer, and if these chairs were some of them. If one chair had slipped, then the integrity of the grip may have been a fault, but the fact that four slipped into a fifth seems like the four were not reattached to the haul rope correctly or with inadequate grip force.


      • James Augie Eischen December 19, 2017 / 2:05 pm

        As well as 20% being dis assembled and NDT tested annually , all grips must be migrated on the haul rope/cable annually . This requires all grips to be loosened from the haul rope , migrated back approximately 1 foot and then painting a match mark on the haul rope to mark the new location. With the match mark, any grip migration can be monitored over time. It is important to know that this external clamping grip is designed to slip a short distance over the operational season. This distance can be from 6 inches to 3 feet. To assure that the grip is installed correctly, a pull test is required on a percentage of the grips. There is a minimum force that the grip must not slip. there is also a maximum force that the grip will slip. The force of the pull test is determined by Lift designers and engineers using the weight of the loaded carrier and the steepest section of the lift installation to calculate the required gripping force required to keep the grip from slipping excessively and not too much clamping pressure in order not to damage the haul rope . This was a procedure on a similar designed lift I have maintained. These procedures are outlined in every lift manufacturers maintenance procedure and there may be different requirements for different manufacturers. I do not have a Borvig Maintenance Procedure to reference.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Mark McFall December 18, 2017 / 11:42 am

    Thanks Peter. I could feel the spirit on which you intended this discussion to be. I am defensive of the folks who run the mountain. It is a small facility that runs on a limited budget. The folks there are like family and I heard that the head of maintenance had a child on the lift as well. Nobody would be callous enough to put kids at risk. The facility services a number of schools. It feels like family. It would be a huge loss to our community. It takes a beating from purists who can afford to go North or West as it is small and icy. But for my kids, it’s AVAILABLE. It has been the best thing my son has done and he now is an instructor. I don’t mind the critique and I’m trying to learn about the failure as well. It’s when folks get mean spirited that I find it to be painful. There is so much joy in the sport that an accident should be about caring, not bashing. My son is more mentally shaken than physically hurt. He has a mild concussion and some back and neck pain. We are praying that Tussey can open soon and he can find his passion again. This was the first year thst they were going to be open for Christmas in at least 3 years. They are good folks serving the community. If there were mistakes, they were just that. Sometimes it’s just a part that fails. See recalls on new cars.
    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.


  10. Peter Landsman December 19, 2017 / 10:35 am

    Update from Tussey Mountain:
    -Lift was last load tested in August 2017
    -Grips were inspected in October 2017
    -Rope inspection was also in October 2017
    -State inspection was November 24, 2017
    -Incident occurred December 16, 2017
    -Weakened spring packs are being eyed as the cause.
    -All spring packs on the lift are being replaced.


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