Chair Falls from High Speed Quad at Breckenridge

A quad chair detached from Breckenridge’s Peak 8 SuperConnect today as high winds buffeted the Central Rockies region. The below video shows the upbound chair came to rest just below the upper terminal. “At approximately 10:35 a.m. today, a chair dislodged from the haul rope of the Peak 8 SuperConnect as it was reaching the top terminal,” read a statement from the resort. “One guest was on the chair at the time and fell approximately 13 feet. Ski patrol responded immediately. No injuries were reported and the guest declined further care,” the statement continued. According to witnesses, other riders were slowly offloaded from the lift under normal power. Numerous upper mountain lifts were on hold at the time due to wind and cold temperatures.

The lift involved was built by Leitner-Poma in 2002 and connects Peaks 8 and 9 with three stations. There are normally 190 chairs on the line.

“We place the highest value on the safety of our guests and the Peak 8 SuperConnect will remain closed for the rest of the day,” the resort noted. “We are still actively gathering information and the lift will undergo a full inspection prior to reopening to the public.”

This is the second carrier to fall from a detachable lift in North America this season. Earlier this month, an empty gondola fell from Mont-Sainte-Anne’s gondola, an incident blamed on human error after a grip attach fault. Last season, an occupied gondola cabin fell from the Sunday River Chondola in high winds. Prior to that, a chair detachment at Camelback, Pennsylvania injured three people in March 2021.

53 thoughts on “Chair Falls from High Speed Quad at Breckenridge

  1. Muni December 22, 2022 / 3:16 pm

    Why would high winds cause the grip to fail (without causing the carrier to collide with a tower)? I can’t imagine the force is comparable to just the gravity of a loaded carrier. Is it to do with torsional/sheer forces?

    Like

    • vons3 December 22, 2022 / 3:29 pm

      No, there are numerous videos of chairs getting blown every which way with no issue. High winds could cause the carrier to strike or become entangled with a tower or as a carrier enters the terminal, miss the rails completely both situations could remove a carrier from the rope.

      Like

      • vons3 December 22, 2022 / 3:44 pm

        Looking at the pictures some more, my guess is that the grip missed the terminal rails. I also would guess that high wind procedures will tomorrows safety topic for VR lifties.

        Liked by 2 people

        • pbropetech December 22, 2022 / 5:16 pm

          I would second that analysis.

          Like

  2. John December 22, 2022 / 3:21 pm

    Aggressive limits on wind hold there. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Harold December 22, 2022 / 3:43 pm

    There are no mechanical things with a failure rate of zero.
    There are no humans with a failure rate of zero.
    I’ve been riding chairlifts for 50 years and have witnessed a few failures.
    Some were human error, some were simply mechanical failures.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Donald Reif December 22, 2022 / 4:55 pm

      Yes, even the best maintained lifts will have problems.

      Like

      • TN December 22, 2022 / 8:03 pm

        Exactly, and thats the case with this lift, the weather is pretty extreme so while this looks bad, it’s no where near the disaster of the Mont Saint Anne disaster a couple weeks ago mid line, with no wind, on a poorly maintained lift. From what I’ve read, unlike RCR, Breckenridge values stringent maintenance and high safety standards.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Donald Reif December 22, 2022 / 8:59 pm

          A ski resort like Breck that gets a lot of visitors would value making sure every lift is in working order. I’m sure the lift will be back up and running in a few days, and Breck will repair or replace the broken chair over the summer. This is after all a very crucial lift on the mountain as the primary route from Peak 9 to Peak 8 (when it’s down, everyone has to use the slower Snowflake lift and ride through the famous turn structure).

          Like

        • Eric December 23, 2022 / 5:59 am

          I could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s possible to get from Peak 9 to Peak 8 via Snowflake. I’ve never lapped Snowflake.

          While it’s down this will be like Heavenly when Sky is on wind hold and trying to get from Cal side to Nevada. (Take a bus.)

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        • Donald Reif December 23, 2022 / 6:26 am

          “While it’s down this will be like Heavenly when Sky is on wind hold and trying to get from Cal side to Nevada. (Take a bus.)”

          This isn’t like when Sky is down. I have used Snowflake to get from Peak 9 to Peak 8 on a few occasions where the SuperConnect is down. The way one reaches the mid-load on Snowflake is by going to the bottom of Lift C and taking a cutoff trail. (Alternately, one could traverse on Sawmill a little bit and travel down the Snowflake trail to the bottom of the lift)

          Here’s a video showing how this is done:

          Like

        • Donald Reif December 23, 2022 / 6:36 am

          *Admittedly a situation like “Heavenly when Sky is down” would be the case if this was pre-1996, as before Snowflake was built, Lift 4 (the predecessor to the Peak 8 SuperConnect) was the sole means of moving from Peaks 9 and 10 to Peak 8. In fact, in the years before the Peak 8 SuperConnect was built, Snowflake’s use as an alternate transfer route was actually highlighted on the trail map.

          Like

      • Calvin December 23, 2022 / 7:26 am

        I wouldn’t put Vail in the “best maintained lifts” category.

        You don’t have two catastrophic failures two days apart on the same lift with good maintenance let alone “the best”. Case in point: Stowe. Catastrophic bearing failure led to the removal of the electric motor on FourRunner. Three days later they operate on diesel backup and a catastrophic “pulley” failure occurred. Combined this has knocked the lift out for 2 weeks. It was supposed to reopen last Sunday, now maybe tomorrow?!?

        That said this incident at hand (Breck deropement) has nothing to do with maintenance. It’s clear the chair failed to make the rails on arrival at the top terminal. It’s NEGLIGENCE on management for having the lift operating in those conditions. That skier/rider is going to get a good well-deserved pay day.

        Like

        • Donald Reif December 23, 2022 / 7:48 am

          This is not a case of negligence on Breckenridge management’s part. This is just a case of a freak wind gust hitting the lift at just the wrong the moment.

          Like

        • Aussierob December 23, 2022 / 8:39 am

          @calvin, I’ve been working on lifts at Whistler Blackcomb for nearly 30 years. The failures you mention are not due to lack of maintenance. We have had numerous motor bearings fail for no reason, and have also had winding failures in other motors that just shouldn’t happen. We have a robust maintenance and overhaul program that goes back all the time I’ve been here. As maintenance people we would love to have no catastrophic, random failures, but lifts full of moving parts will have them, despite the best maintenance procedures.

          Liked by 3 people

        • Donald Reif December 23, 2022 / 8:54 am

          Exactly, maintaining a chairlift is just like maintaining a car or an airplane, or anything with lots of mechanical parts: you can be as thorough as possible when it comes to maintaining it, only for something to still break on it. Or in incidents like this, you can perform all the procedures flawlessly that you’re to do in the event of high winds, only for something to still go wrong.

          Like

        • Kirk December 23, 2022 / 12:47 pm

          Appears Donald has no clue about the dangers involved of operating detachable lifts in high winds or he is some kind of Vail groupee.

          Like

        • Donald Reif December 23, 2022 / 1:02 pm

          I’ve skied Breck in high wind conditions, days where lifts had to go on wind hold. I kinda have an idea as to what the resort management has to deal with when it comes to situations like this. That doesn’t make me a “Vail groupee”, but someone who wants to get all the facts first before pointing blame at anyone.

          Like

        • ryand1407 December 24, 2022 / 6:05 am

          Stowe’s gondi being down is not catastrophic. Annoying for passholders? Sure. But it has next to nothing to do with this “deropement” you speak of. An aside, a deropement is when the line comes off the sheaves/bullwheel, this would be known as a detachment or grip failure.

          Stowe’s current Gondola state has so little to do with Breck, directly or tangentiality, I’m not even sure why you’d bring it up. Do you expect all of Vail corp to have their lifts at 100% uptime? 90%? Betting they’d still sell a crap ton of epic passes if it was 85, so you’re point is pretty moot.

          Liked by 3 people

  4. Kirk December 22, 2022 / 3:59 pm

    Somebody super experienced should have been in the operator station monitoring the wind with there finger on the stop button under those conditions. Was it a first year lift operator?? I hope not.
    No detachable grip performs well going into the terminal swinging like crazy.
    More times than not it ends up like what happened there today.

    Some times you get caught pushing the limits. Don’t think the high winds were big surprise looking at the weather forecast. Even a bigger risk looking at the wind chill.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dean December 22, 2022 / 8:22 pm

      “More times than not?” How many hundreds of thousands of chairs enter the terminal successfully each and every year, even in windy conditions? The failure rate isn’t 0%, but it’s darned close to it.

      Like

      • Donald Reif December 22, 2022 / 8:56 pm

        And this sounds like a case of a freak wind gust hitting at the precise moment this chair was starting to enter the terminal (and too late for the operator to do anything about it).

        Like

    • masteringfate December 23, 2022 / 1:40 pm

      Former first year liftie. When winds are high like this, for a large portion of the day either a lift mechanic or a lift supervisor is in the top shack. If things could get spicy, we call, they come. The lifts are slowed down, and lateral swing is watched. But most importantly, no, it’s not junior lifties making these decisions.

      Liked by 2 people

    • ryand1407 December 24, 2022 / 6:00 am

      … how often do you think this happens? Better yet, how often do you think this happens to the single entity that spends the most dollars on lift maintenance globally year over year?

      Liked by 1 person

      • pbropetech December 24, 2022 / 12:49 pm

        This was not maintenance-related, though.

        Like

  5. Donald Reif December 22, 2022 / 4:57 pm

    This is the sort of situation the Snowflake lift exists for. That lift is going to be swamped as the sole means of moving north from Peak 9 to Peak 8 for the next few days.

    Like

  6. RandyM. December 22, 2022 / 5:21 pm

    With the high winds and artic cold Colorado experienced today, seems most areas had limited lift operations. Eldora had 4 lifts, Arapahoe had 1 lift operating for example, Cooper closed completely. So I’m guessing this was wind related.

    Like

    • vons3 December 22, 2022 / 6:02 pm

      I live in Montana this morning (8:30am) it was -32deg F with no wind, most of the resorts in the state won’t operate lifts if its -15 ambient no wind air temp. Big Sky opened around noon once it had warmed to -8 ish with very limited lifts, most of all the small ski resorts in the state closed for the day.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Donald Reif December 22, 2022 / 6:47 pm

      Yeah, A-Basin was limited to running Black Mountain only. Pretty sure Vail was hesitant on opening Blue Sky Basin just because of the long distance from civilization you are.

      Like

  7. Donald Reif December 22, 2022 / 6:58 pm

    10.5 minutes stopped in this high wind after the chair broke off (according to absentmused)? Doesn’t sound fun at all. And I say that because I once got caught on the Beaver Run SuperChair in conditions like this…with it snowing heavily too.

    From the description of the guy who filmed the video, it sounds like what happened is a surprise wind gust that just came out of nowhere, and hit right as the chair was entering the terminal (and with the lift already running at slow speed): “It was windy and the chair was already creeping. Out of nowhere a crazy strong quick gust hit us at the exact moment the guy was entering the wheelhouse. His chair was disconnecting from the cable and meeting the bogey wheels right as the gust hit. Very poor timing but not the fault of the lifty or faulty equipment.”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. David Hildreth December 22, 2022 / 7:30 pm

    It is unfortunate that this has happened to you people I’m sorry that it happened please take care of your lift

    Like

  9. Rob Selover December 23, 2022 / 5:48 am

    With all possible love, I totally realize lots of ppl buy plane tickets and expensive lodging etc. and “want to get their money’s worth”, but yesterday was miserable, and I can’t imagine intentionally going outside.

    This adds to that list, and again, super bummer that someone could have been badly hurt (but I guess was ok?)

    Like

  10. Kirk December 23, 2022 / 8:41 am

    After operating, maintaining and inspecting ski lifts for over 40 years. I get tired of people talking about freak wind gusts, nobody’s fault etc. Especially when a carrier is swinging wildly in plain view of the lift operator prior to entering the terminal.
    If you choose to run a detachable lift in forecasted and existing extreme wind conditions there is a good chance you will end up with extreme problems.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Donald Reif December 23, 2022 / 8:56 am

      It sounds like this was a case of, “they already had the lift slowed down to a crawl and a gust hit right at the precise moment this chair was about to enter the terminal”, and thus cause a problem to happen.

      Like

  11. Kirk December 23, 2022 / 9:24 am

    I have investigated several of these kind of accidents. It usually comes down to poor operational choices. Ignoring wind and weather forecasts, pushing the limits to the end. I would like to know if an experienced person was at the controls or if was it a first year person, expected to now when to stop the lift under these type of extreme conditions ???

    Like

  12. utahsucksdontmovehere December 23, 2022 / 9:40 am

    There were NO surprise wind gusts on that day. None. This was forecasted. The lift should not have been running. Why? Because extremely high wind gusts were in the forecast. This storm barely grazed Utah and still the winds were gusting 118mph at Snowbird. This was not a pleasant day and the wind was not out of nowhere. The winds were high and forecasted to be gusting much, much, much higher. The chair fell to the ground because the lift was running during a forecasted extremely gusty wind event when an extreme wind gust as described in the forecast happened as the chair was entering the station.

    Liked by 1 person

    • utahsucksdontmovehere December 23, 2022 / 9:42 am

      (I know this happened at Breckenridge, I’m just saying because Utah was barely grazed whereas Colorado was a much more direct hit)

      Like

      • John C. December 23, 2022 / 10:49 am

        Barely grazed?? Hidden Peak saw gusts of 124 mph!!!!

        Like

    • Robert December 23, 2022 / 10:53 am

      Agreed

      Like

  13. LH December 23, 2022 / 1:22 pm

    The mistake on this one sounds like operating the lift in these conditions… once the line is loaded in this weather, there are only 2 options left, slowly unload the line and close the lift, which sounds like what they were doing when this happened; or a rope evac, which would have its own set of risks in high winds, along with dangerous exposure for the last ones due to long wait times.

    This chair will probably reopen quickly, but Breck’s wind hold policies will definitely change after this.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Kirk December 23, 2022 / 2:51 pm

    Its hard not to be critical of the operation when there is a live video of the wind conditions and the carrier falls off in plain view of the lift shack window about 20′ away ???

    Like

    • Donald Reif December 23, 2022 / 4:30 pm

      Well we now have an official statement from the resort: “At the time of this event, the resort was following all standard operating procedures. The wind direction was predominantly favorable for operation of the Peak 8 SuperConnect when it opened for the day at 10 a.m., however an abnormal wind gust across the top terminal, in addition to the chair coming into contact with components of the upper terminal, created the circumstances of this event.”

      Like

      • Kirk December 23, 2022 / 5:02 pm

        What would you expect from Vail. It wasn’t there fault it was circumstances.
        The world saw the video, the wind was blowing at 90 degrees to the lift.

        Circumstances: A fact or condition connected with or relevant to an event or action. Event = Running the lift in high winds. Action = Chair falls off.

        Like

        • Donald Reif December 23, 2022 / 5:19 pm

          No, the event is the surprise wind gust. That’s to blame here.

          Like

  15. Kirk December 23, 2022 / 5:31 pm

    Donald you live in a dream world and must not have any real experience with ski lift operations. Its hard to believe anyone could be that naïve.
    Will leave it at that.

    Like

    • Ty December 23, 2022 / 9:56 pm

      I mean, Donald is one of the few people on here that provide me with reliable, constant, relatively quick answers to my questions as well as my liftie buddy who said his answers pretty reliably accurate, so I dont see the need to personally insult him, as well as constantly attacking Vail. And dont get me wrong Kirk, you always provide some isngithful and useful comments all the time, and I get it, not everyone likes Vail for valid reasons, but Vail at this point is like Amazon, they’re not perfect, but without them, we’d all be bankrupt from having to pay way more like $100-280 every day we ski, compared to the Epic pass which is far more affordable.

      Like

      • Kirk December 24, 2022 / 7:41 am

        I have nothing against Vail resorts other than their always it’s not our fault style of reporting accidents. After being in the ski business for 40+ years I know personally that there are always more than one factor involved in a accident like this. More than one single gust of wind. It’s obvious the winds were howling for some time prior to the accident. Extreme wind gusts should be no real surprise once you have entered into this kind of storm. So when a guy like Donald or anybody else states in writing that one surprise wind gust was the only factor in this accident. All of us that have been in these kind of situations know better. So without actually being there or have an unbias report to read no one can be totally dogmatic on all the factors involved.

        The only report/statement that will hold any water in my book is from the Colorado Tramway Board. Hopefully we will have a chance to read that.

        Like

        • pbropetech December 24, 2022 / 12:43 pm

          Fully agree here. Nothing that happened Thursday was much of a surprise. Five miles west we had chairs doing the circular dance and swinging enough to almost touch the haul rope. It was forecasted.

          I too am curious what the final tram board report will say.

          Like

  16. Bill Duggan December 24, 2022 / 2:58 am

    If you want to keep skiing on storm days best to stick with fixed chairs backed up by surface lifts. See Skyline & Bateau at Sugarloaf.

    Like

    • pbropetech December 24, 2022 / 12:45 pm

      I’ve not been in the industry as long as Kirk but I wouldn’t operate fixed-grip lifts in that kind of storm either. They don’t have the miscapture possibility but if they hit a tower or terminal structure they won’t fare well either.

      Like

  17. Resolve.Action.Love 🌻 (@Snowman55403) December 30, 2022 / 3:16 pm

    The thing I *hope* Breck will think through about this (besides overall wind hold policy) is that changing six Chair from a fixed double to a detach quad is how often there are *strong* crosswinds at the top of Six.
    The terrain is often excellent skining/riding in wind because of the aspect and getting to trees fairly quickly. But IMO a fixed triple with loading carpet that runs at 2.5 m/s would increase lift but not have the wind issues of a quad, or esp a detachable.

    Like

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