Stevens Pass Evacuates Seventh Heaven Following Tower Incident


A malfunction occurred on the Seventh Heaven double this morning at Stevens Pass, necessitating a rope evacuation.  Photos appear to show sheaves missing from the light side of tower 1 and the rope caught by the bottom terminal.

“At approximately 9:45 a.m. this morning, Seventh Heaven chairlift stopped operating,” read a statement from the mountain, which is operated by Vail Resorts.  “Ski patrol evacuated 26 guests, with no reported injuries.  The evacuation was safely completed at approximately 12:15 p.m.,” the statement continued.  “Stevens Pass extends its apologies to the guests who were inconvenienced by this event.  The safety of our guests and employees is our top priority.”

Seventh Heaven is one of three remaining Riblet chairlifts at Stevens.  It first opened in 1960 but many components including the bottom terminal and tower 1 are newer than that.  The lift services expert terrain on Cowboy Mountain and reaches an elevation of 5,640 feet.  There was no immediate word on when the summit would reopen.

Tower 1 is heavily loaded with 12 sheaves on each side.

46 thoughts on “Stevens Pass Evacuates Seventh Heaven Following Tower Incident

  1. Will February 2, 2020 / 7:19 pm

    Seventh Heaven is ANCIENT. Surprised something like this hasn’t happened earlier. Probably time to replace it with a new double chair.


    • Ryan Gardner February 2, 2020 / 8:06 pm

      metal fatigue?


    • AvocadoAndy February 2, 2020 / 8:32 pm

      It’s a wonder it’s stuck around for so long, it’s been relocated like 3 times, it’s 60 years old, and it’s a pretty brutal location. I’m not afraid of heights or lifts, but this thing has always scared me a little.


      • Donald Reif February 2, 2020 / 8:56 pm

        If it gets replaced, the replacement will certainly have bars with footrests.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Will February 2, 2020 / 9:32 pm

          The lift is short enough that I don’t think that is necessarily true. I could see Vail replacing the drive terminal and nothing else.


        • Meir K. February 3, 2020 / 3:46 pm

          Good one, but how do you know?


        • Philip Polk February 3, 2020 / 6:30 pm

          Now you’re just trolling, Donald.


      • pbropetech February 3, 2020 / 9:33 am

        The tower in question isn’t 60 years old though. The drive terminal and T1 were replaced in the 90s and the rest of the lift hasn’t moved since it was built. Pretty steep lift for sure though.


    • Donald Reif February 2, 2020 / 8:57 pm

      What those sheave should look like:


  2. MilanYVR February 2, 2020 / 10:27 pm

    But the great thing about riblets is you can probably get most of the parts from a resort selling old parts or your local napa.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cameron Halmrast February 2, 2020 / 10:36 pm

    What failed all appears to be 80s line gear so it’s not that old. It was just a fluke incident and luckily no one got hurt.


    • Will February 2, 2020 / 10:37 pm

      Yes. We should all be thankful for that.

      However, I still think a brand new double chairlift would be pretty great!


      • Donald Reif February 3, 2020 / 9:02 am

        I’m sure Doppelmayr would be happy to do such a project after having built Brooks and Daisy.


    • Ross Maclean February 3, 2020 / 5:51 am

      Hmmm, a “fluke” you say. After 27 years as a lift mechanic i doubt it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • pbropetech February 3, 2020 / 9:31 am

        Me too. If I had to guess I’d say a chair got hung up in the assembly, but I’m sure there’s more to it than just that. Those axles are retained in plane by two 3/4″ U-bolts and aligned by 5/8″ pusher bolts on those same U-bolts. If any of those broke things could go south quickly. I only see one pair out of the four in the photo, so it must have been pretty violent.


        • vons3 February 3, 2020 / 11:21 am

          Looking at the pictures the outside (nearest to the rope) U-bolt is gone, surprised that on a hold down assembly that Riblet didn’t add a third U-bolt just for some redundancy in design.


    • Ryan Gardner February 4, 2020 / 10:36 pm

      Old enough. 30 years.. It can happen, and yet there are lifts out there even older


  4. Somebody February 2, 2020 / 11:21 pm

    For a resort owned by vail and installing new detachable, they probably shouldn’t have a 60 year old center pole. Predicting a new lift out of this.


    • Will February 3, 2020 / 1:08 pm

      Well said.


    • pbropetech February 3, 2020 / 3:54 pm

      They just bought the place. They then replaced two other lifts. Three in a summer might have been a bit much.


      • Paul Hothersall February 3, 2020 / 11:26 pm

        3 (or 4 depending on how you count) was too much for WB… let alone stevens. Please take Franzs chair to replace this. Its a low hours fixed grip triple that will be perfect for this line.


  5. Brian February 3, 2020 / 9:49 am

    Looks like the whole T1 lightside sheave train detached and ran back into the terminal sheaves.


  6. Rob Withey February 3, 2020 / 9:55 am

    Vail just bought 17 resorts full of lifts like this. I think a whole bunch may need replacing. Fortunately short fixed grips aren’t that expensive. You could probably replace half a dozen for the cost of a detachable at one of the big resorts.


  7. Colin Connor February 3, 2020 / 10:58 am

    If they need to replace it they should run from the top of Brooks up to to the top of the ridgeline of Cowboy Mountain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Donald Reif February 3, 2020 / 12:14 pm

      The lift would have to cross over Skyline, which isn’t really the most ideal thing to do.


      • Will February 3, 2020 / 1:09 pm

        Based on the topography, I actually don’t think that would be too difficult.


  8. Leif C Kirchoff February 3, 2020 / 11:31 am

    Based on my distant observations, it appeared to be bolt failure between the tower arms and the sheave train pivot attachment. The State and Forest service will investigate; I certainly look forward to reading that investigation. It will be interesting to see if this was a case of progressive over-tightening or ice jacking (The latter we saw at Whistler a few years back). We have seen a lot of lift problems this year, hopeful Vail can get things figured out.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. jwbskoot February 3, 2020 / 12:19 pm

    I just want to remind everybody of the extreme weather conditions at Steven’s Pass. Just the other day the temperature went from 32° to 15° in a matter of 3-4 hours. This type of weather fluctuation puts metal and steel vulnerable to breakage.


    • Leif Kirchoff February 3, 2020 / 12:21 pm

      This is an issue if bolts have been over tightened, but is well within the ability of steel to manage.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ryan Gardner February 4, 2020 / 10:39 pm

      That’s nothing! here in Denver we went from 70 to 15 in 2 hours! :oÞ

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Peter Landsman February 3, 2020 / 5:02 pm


  11. CJ February 6, 2020 / 1:27 pm

    If a new lift is in order, it should be completely relocated with the bottom terminal between Hogsback and Tye Mill with the lift going up Rock Garden and a new unloading zone carved into where we all hike to get to the upper runs.


    • Donald Reif February 6, 2020 / 3:19 pm

      That would certainly make more of that area lappable via one lift.


  12. Bobby smith February 6, 2020 / 3:09 pm

    Another week, another Vail lift incident.

    Cutting costs by all means to appease share holders? They gonna kill people soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • V12Tommy February 14, 2020 / 9:13 pm

      They killed someone yesterday here in Vail. A man from New Jersey strangled to death by the Skyline chair.


  13. Leif Kirchoff February 6, 2020 / 8:59 pm

    Should they not be replacing all U bolts on the 7th lift before it opens?


  14. RB February 8, 2020 / 1:07 pm

    Other than the occasional cryptic note on its Twitter feed that Seventh is closed while under repair, Stevens has been notably silent (despite many requests for info) about the incident itself, when the chair might reopen, etc. So that leads me to two questions:
    1. Maybe it’s impossible to tell from the photos, but how long would it typically take for something like this to get repaired (taking into account figuring out what went wrong, getting and installing replacement parts, making sure the rest of the chair is safe, getting sign-off from state and feds, etc.)? Is it reasonable to expect that it will reopen this season? (Okay, that’s two sub-questions.)
    2. What is a resort’s thinking in ghosting (and annoying) its loyal customers who pay the bills?


  15. Paul February 15, 2020 / 6:03 pm

    Does anyone know how resorts like Vail finance lifts and what is the lifespan of the average lift? Sounds like the industry is in need of a shakeup for these large capex investments and rather than “own” the lift why not lease it from Dopplemayr or Leitner similar to other capex heavy industries such as airlines, mining etc.

    Even with extremely high priced lift tickets, it seems that Vail (and others) must be stacking up some serious deferred maintenance and running lifts up to 60 years old seems like a lawsuit away from going bust if there were ever to be a serious incident.


    • Raj Thorp February 15, 2020 / 7:13 pm

      The average life span for a fixed grip is about 30 years. Since they fixed the lift though, they won’t replace it this season, and they just bought two other lifts


    • Somebody February 15, 2020 / 8:51 pm

      Lifespan of a lift depends on many factors such as use, length, maintenance. In addition, some lifts were designed better than others, and as a result last much longer. Naming an average is difficult because there is so many factors. Some chairlifts are over 50 years old and have stood the test of time, whereas other lifts made it less than a decade.

      If I had to guess the lifespan of this lift, I’d say probably 40 years. It shouldn’t be still running.


    • Raj Thorp February 17, 2020 / 8:37 pm

      Also, seventh heaven has very high tensions because of the steep lift line, so the lifespan is way less than other lifts


      • Kirk February 17, 2020 / 8:48 pm

        What do you consider high tension ? and how does that factor in with the overall lifespan of a chairlift.


      • John February 18, 2020 / 10:48 am

        Lift tension is not the same as tower load. The tension on a lift is determined by its capacity and weight of the haul rope and carriers (and then how large a counterweight or hydraulic tensioning system is used), not the lift profile. There is a high load on that tower due to the angle change, but it does not mean there are similar forces on the rest of the lift.
        As for lifespan – it doesn’t really matter. Components on heavily loaded towers may need to be replaced more often, but that’s normal maintenance. Haul ropes on shorter lifts have shorter lifespans because they complete more revolutions in a given time frame, but those are not tied to the life of a lift.

        Liked by 2 people

  16. Kirk February 15, 2020 / 9:04 pm

    One can make assumptions that the failure was do to age. I am not necessary buying into that without any posted facts or pictures of what actually failed. Sounds like one of the U-bolts holding the main axle of the sheave assembly failed. The question is why?? Was the U-bolt loose, damaged, threads cracked, corroded or a design issue ?? Right now it seems like most comments are based on pure speculation??
    Unfortunately unless the owner “Vail” or regulatory agency, “USFS” spits out the facts we will never know.


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