Chair Pileup Shutters Big Squaw

Multiple chairs slipped this afternoon at Maine’s Big Squaw Mountain, necessitating a rope evacuation of the Donaher triple. Pictures show at least three groups of chairs spaced at abnormal intervals on the light side of the lift. Sam Shirley was on the triple chair at the time and provided me with the below account and pictures.

“I was riding the triple at Big Squaw around 1:00 when I noticed chairs coming down which had slid into each other. About two minutes later, the lift stopped. We were told that there was a partial derailment on the downhill side near the summit (likely tower 9 or 10).  I’m not sure what caused the chairs to slide into each other or why the lift didn’t stop immediately. Maybe they were catching in something or hitting a tower. Everyone was evacuated by rope within an hour and the staff did a great job. They had three different teams evacuating people. We were given vouchers to use later in the season.”

Sam Shirley

Donaher is a 1986 Borvig triple rising 587 vertical feet. An organization called Friends of Squaw Mountain operates the lift on a nonprofit basis. Back in 2004, another chair-slipping incident caused multiple injuries on the Thompson double. In that case, one of the chairs fell to the ground rather than remaining on the rope. The Stadeli-built lift never reopened but a Louisiana-based investor recently joined with a Maine developer in hopes of revitalizing the mountain with new lifts, a hotel and summer activities.

Thankfully there were no injuries reported today. It was only the mountain’s fourth day operating this season due to snow conditions and the lift opened later than normal because of cold temperatures. Big Squaw will remain closed at least through the holiday weekend.


12 thoughts on “Chair Pileup Shutters Big Squaw

  1. skitheeast February 12, 2021 / 4:24 pm

    The Moosehead Lake Ski Resort overhaul cannot arrive fast enough for Big Squaw.


  2. Utah Powder Skier February 12, 2021 / 4:36 pm

    Are the grip slippage Borvig incidents because of the grip itself, or is it because of maintenance?


    • Michael February 12, 2021 / 5:12 pm

      If in fact the chair pileups were caused by a partial deropement that’s a maintenance issue, not a Borvig grip issue.


  3. Phoenix February 12, 2021 / 4:45 pm

    Yet another Borvig failure…


  4. Lee February 12, 2021 / 5:29 pm

    Is this the Borvig grip with spring washers in it loaded opposite ways?


  5. Max Hart February 12, 2021 / 7:13 pm

    Can’t help but notice that the grip on Chair 90 in the picture looks brand new…


    • Michael February 12, 2021 / 10:04 pm

      …or clean, tested and repainted if it happened to be in the NDT cycle…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Calvin February 12, 2021 / 7:57 pm

    Poor Big Squaw


  7. Peter Landsman February 15, 2021 / 3:04 pm

    More from Sam:

    “I spoke with Amy from the Friends of Squaw Mountain and she was able to provide me with some more details about the incident.

    The derailment happened on the downhill sheave assembly on Tower 9. It is not known at this point how the derailment happened, but the haul rope derailed from the couple most uphill sheaves of the sheave assembly. However, the haul rope stayed on the rest of the sheaves in the assembly. Because there were no brittle bars near the first few sheaves (because of the manufacturer’s design), the lift continued to run due to the fact that the haul rope was still on the sheaves where the brittle bars were located. The whole assembly has been removed from the lift and the entire lift is undergoing multiple rounds of inspection. They plan to add more brittle bars to the assembly before the lift operates again.”


  8. Richard H Mailey III January 13, 2023 / 8:54 am

    I worked at Big Squaw Mountain as Trail manager and head groomer for two decades. I had the opportunity to design and build all the Glades on the West head wall on top of this mountain. I lost my job in 2013 because I refused to participate in the operation of the Borvig triple chair lift with all the safeties bypassed by using a low voltage circuit Hotwire. My whistleblower complaint will soon be aired Statewide on NBC stations. The state inspector’s office and commissioner covered up a crime that risked the welfare of the people in my community. I love this mountain and my job was everything to me. It was my dream to go back to building The Glades and hopefully have the top of the mountain reopened but I was forced to commit a crime to keep my job and I could not take that risk with other people’s children . I am proud of my actions on March 2nd of 2013 when I stopped an unsafe ski lift operation on big Squaw Mountain Resort that was outside of the laws of the state of Maine Tramway safety program.


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