Indianhead Lift Closed Following Incident

An occupied chair fell from the Leelinaw lift at Indianhead Mountain in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula yesterday according to multiple sources. When reached for a statement, Big Snow Resort, which operates Indianhead along with Blackjack Mountain, confirmed there was an incident but declined to comment on specifically what happened. “We are working with the skiers. The lift is operational but not in use today and will be re-inspected tomorrow,” a representative said.

Leelinaw became one of the world’s first triple chairlifts when constructed by Riblet in 1964. Like most Riblet lifts, it features clips which are inserted into the haul rope rather than grips which clamp onto the rope. Earlier this season, another chair with a Riblet clip fell at 49 Degrees North in Washington State.

I have contacted the Ski/Amusement Division of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, which licenses ski lifts in the state, and will update this post if I get further information on this incident.

Update 1/12: The family of one of the injured skiers asked me to post the following statement: 

My brother has been transported to another hospital with very serious injuries. I would like to thank everyone for their concerns especially those who saw it happen and reported the details to prevent any further injuries. The hospital is closed to visitors and a very close family member at another location is sick in a very bad way with the covid virus. We in the family appreciate  everyone’s thoughts and prayers at this very difficult time.

40 thoughts on “Indianhead Lift Closed Following Incident

  1. Resolve.Action.Love (@Snowman55403) January 10, 2021 / 11:28 am

    As you noted a couple weeks ago, Indianhead (and sister resort) are for sale. In addition to of course concerns for the people on that chair, this will likely not be good for Big Snow’s hopes. Interesting that it’s been rumored for sale for years now.


    • Tonya Kozuch January 11, 2021 / 8:06 pm


  2. bflytle January 10, 2021 / 11:49 am

    Was there some sort of new design to the clips here and at 49 Degrees North? Or does this sort of incident happen periodically with a variety of possible causes, and the close proximity of these two incidents is just a coincidence?


    • Maxwell Holley January 10, 2021 / 11:00 pm

      I Don’t think so. The Riblet at 49 fell because a cotter pin either broke or wasn’t bent properly, the casting was fine and the clip didn’t come out of the rope.

      Liked by 1 person

      • David January 13, 2021 / 9:26 pm

        Cotter pins are a huge no no. Should have been a roll pin. That would not have failed.


        • pbropetech January 14, 2021 / 9:20 am

          Cotter pins have been used for quite a long time in this application. I’ve also seen roll pins fail. As a coworker is fond of saying, every mechanical component will eventually fail- it just takes some parts longer than others.


      • ken backlund January 14, 2021 / 9:51 pm

        those clips are sent out to be inspected every other year..there’s no way a clip can exit the cable with the tension that’s on that cable. the clip may have had hairline fracture unable to be seen by the naked eye…that’s why they are sent out to be inspected during the summer. I’ve worked on riblet lifts and worked 10 yrs for 2 resorts. the one resort in question I’ve got 5 yrs i have worked as lift operator. and i might add that the clips are never placed in the same place on the cable year after year they are physically removed during the summer months to a new placement on the cable

        Liked by 2 people

        • pbropetech January 18, 2021 / 10:12 am

          I’ve witnessed clips exit the cable. Under normal circumstances, you’re correct; however, with the right (wrong?) combination of force and direction it can happen.


  3. Peter January 10, 2021 / 12:13 pm

    I hope the riders were okay. Detachment on Riblets is scary- it’s a great design with an excellent safety record. Unless there was a casting flaw in the insert, this smells like insufficient inspection/maintenance.

    Liked by 3 people

    • David Ryan January 11, 2021 / 7:14 pm

      It was really swinging, hit the halo and detached as designed…


      • Elizabeth January 12, 2021 / 7:59 pm

        Can you explain “hit the halo and detached as designed”? I’ve been on riblet chairs that have hit the halo many times & they never detached. How is a chair detaching from the rope ever “as designed”?


        • Ryan January 13, 2021 / 1:03 pm

          He doesn’t mean the detach was by design. Just that the overall clip design of Riblet is a good design.


  4. Kaden K January 10, 2021 / 1:33 pm

    A bit sketchy that they declined a report on what happened. Hopefully they are maintaining their lifts properly.


    • Raidy (raidify) March 29, 2022 / 1:31 am

      Well it’s a lose lose situation. If they comment on it they could get sued, and if they decline comments they are called a sketchy company. If you were put in their place, what would you do?


  5. Utah Powder Skier January 10, 2021 / 2:47 pm

    Does the weight of a triple chair affect the wear and tear on the clip?


    • pbropetech January 11, 2021 / 10:17 am

      It shouldn’t. Clips are sized and engineered for both different sizes of haul rope and different carrier weights. There are quads as well- not the double clip centre-pole ones at Boyne, but single-clip, modern bail designs. They seem to work fine there- I did NDT on three quads at Baker and I don’t recall seeing any different wear from the doubles.


  6. John January 10, 2021 / 5:55 pm

    Can someone explain to me how the clip works?


    • pbropetech January 11, 2021 / 10:21 am

      It is a forged single piece of steel, with a slot in the middle to allow a strand of the haul rope to pass through and two ‘ears’ on the leading and trailing ends that are sized and shaped to fit inside the haul rope. One cuts a piece of core out of the rope and puts the clip in its place. The tension of the haul rope holds the clip in place. There are several drawings around that show this in more detail.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Kate January 10, 2021 / 7:53 pm

    I watched this happen yesterday (directly behind the car that fell) and I can say this:

    1. The car the two passengers were in was swaying from left to right aggressively, no fault to them. The lift was running at a faster speed and they started rocking aggressively as soon as they got on.

    2. The car hit the green halo of the structure pole really hard, and the clip fell off of the rail completely. I couldn’t believe what was happening and immediately went into panic mode

    3. The two older passengers fell about 15-25 feet still sitting in the lift chair immediately after impact. They landed on their backs on top of the chair in what looked like softer snow

    4. The older gentleman started crying out in pain and was definitely in bad condition. The women was silent in shock. Ambulance came and took both away for medical attention about 30 mins after the fall

    5. I was terrified our car was next in the moment, and left the hill shortly after speaking with the CEO and mountain manager on what we witnessed. I asked that they give our contact information to the victims

    6. We were told we would get a full refund due to our safety concerns, and I would highly encourage anyone who was there to call and do so as well.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Jason Hofstede January 12, 2021 / 9:54 am

      Thanks for the info!


    • Kirk January 14, 2021 / 8:55 am

      Can someone verify if the clip came out of the haulrope or did the chair come off of the clip???


      • pbropetech January 14, 2021 / 9:14 am

        If you read the witness report above, she states that the clip came out of the rope.


        • Kirk January 14, 2021 / 9:30 am

          I guess rail = rope?


  8. Rose January 11, 2021 / 9:38 am

    Hi Kate,

    Please reach out to me at 651-***-****. My father was the man.

    (Phone number hidden as parties are in contact. -Peter)

    Liked by 2 people

    • tyler Boyles January 11, 2021 / 10:18 am

      I am hopeful your father and other passenger were not injured seriously. My wife and I were also on the chair behind the incident. We did not see it happen, but saw how quickly ski patrol arrived and were providing first aid.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Stephanie January 11, 2021 / 10:21 am

      I am her sister, I just let her know she will be in touch today.


    • Katie January 11, 2021 / 6:21 pm

      My son was 2 chairs ahead of them. His chair also hit the halo. Please know your dad and the other passenger are in our thoughts and prayers!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jenny oosterhuis February 1, 2021 / 1:23 pm

      Hi Rose,
      I feel just sick for your father and family. I was up there this past weekend and people let me know your dad was in the accident. I’d really like to send him a card to let him know I’m thinking and praying for him. No one at Powderhorn had contact info. Your dad was instrumental in teaching my kids to nordic ski and has been a really positive person in the lives of so many people. If you are comfortable sharing any contact info I’d be really grateful. Please know that my family and I are praying for him.


    • GR MILLER February 6, 2021 / 6:00 am

      Hello Rose- this is Izzy and my son just sent me this post. Our deepest thoughts and prayers are with your Dad and all of your family. God speed and I look forward to taking again soon.


  9. Sam January 11, 2021 / 1:32 pm

    I also witnessed what happened and didn’t feel reassured in any way after speaking to the front desk, hopefully they will come out with some sort of investigation report? If you need any more witnesses please let me know, pretty horrifying and definitely sent me off the slopes for the rest of the weekend. Please update us as to how the passengers are doing.


  10. Ryan January 11, 2021 / 7:59 pm

    Wow.. chairs hitting the tower/halo.. this is starting to sound a bit like Quick Draw at Granby Ranch.. but probably not. I wonder if there was some sort of tension issue to cause a swing like that. Just speculation.


  11. Michael January 11, 2021 / 9:35 pm

    Ryan- a poorly loaded chair on a Riblet can swing abnormally. Many areas build a ‘catch spot’ after the load area to contact the riders equipment and dampen the swing.


    • Bob Lemler January 13, 2021 / 3:31 pm

      That’s totally right ! Terrible accident! That chair ran 56 years !! First time it happened ! Hope and pray! He will be ok !!


  12. Peter Landsman January 12, 2021 / 12:29 pm

    The family of one of the injured skiers asked me to post the following statement:

    “My brother has been transported to another hospital with very serious injuries. I would like to thank everyone for their concerns especially those who saw it happen and reported the details to prevent any further injuries. The hospital is closed to visitors and a very close family member at another location is sick in a very bad way with the covid virus. We in the family appreciate everyone’s thoughts and prayers at this very difficult time.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Myles Svec January 12, 2021 / 12:52 pm

      Thank you Peter for posting this. It really lifted up my day today. Prayers to victims of this chairlift fall and their families. Also prayers to every one and their families who have coronavirus.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Bee December 11, 2021 / 7:23 am

      How did things turn out with your brother?
      -a concerned skier


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