Sea to Sky Gondola Deliberately Severed Again

The Sea to Sky Gondola‘s haul rope was cut again this morning in an intentional act of destruction. The horrible news comes just 13 months after the first such crime occurred the morning of August 10th, 2019. “At 04:00 hours the Squamish RCMP was contacted by the security team at the Sea to Sky Gondola stating that the line to the gondola had been cut and had crashed into the mountain,” read an early morning statement from police. “Squamish RCMP members attended immediately and began to assess information and contain the area.” The lift was not operating at that hour and there are no known injuries.

The criminal(s) responsible for the original downing were never apprehended and the gondola reopened six months later with enhanced security including 24 hour remote monitoring. Squamish RCMP is working alongside partner agencies including the West Vancouver Police Department and more will be arriving as the day goes on.  There is an extensive amount of resources in the area and law enforcement is asking the public to stay out of the vicinity.

“We are in shock,” General Manager Kirby Brown told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “This is a repeat incident of what happened last year.” He said the attraction plans to rebuild again, just as it did last fall. That included millions of dollars of work including new cabins from CWA, a replacement 55 millimeter haul rope from Fatzer and new security infrastructure.

The Sea to Sky Gondola employs 120 people and hosted 400,000 visitors per year before the recent setbacks. Anyone with information on either crime is asked to contact the Squamish Royal Canadian Mounted Police at 604-892-6100 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

Update: According to Brown, the cable was cut in a similar manner to last time with a skilled individual quickly climbing a tower and cutting the rope. The person was captured on surveillance footage which shows clearly what happened. There were 39 cabins on the gondola this time, six of which were in stations and undamaged. A rope specialist is en route to determine whether a new haul rope section can be spliced in or if an entirely new rope is needed. The gondola was insured and the company is already in the process of ordering what is needed to rebuild again.

Wildfires Impact Ski Areas Across the West

As snow falls across the Rockies, resorts closer to the Pacific continue to deal with drought conditions and wildland fires. Most immediately threatened is California’s China Peak from the 153,000 acre Creek Fire. “We are aware that the fire has reached our mountain and a strike team is working hard to manage the flames and protect structures on the base area,” said a statement from the resort last night. “Employee housing has been damaged, but we have no other information at this time.” China Peak operates a total of six fixed grip chairlifts.

Eight different National Forests in California shut down to the public effective 5:00 pm on Labor Day due to extreme fire danger. Mammoth Mountain and Snow Summit are among those temporarily suspending mountain operations in partnership with the Forest Service.

In Oregon, a fire ignited within the Mt. Hood Meadows boundary on Monday. Meadows fired up the Stadium Express for firefighters, who were able to contain the blaze to a few acres without damage to lifts or facilities.

The Mt. Hood National Forest is now closed to the public. Timberline Lodge has suspended outdoor operations until further notice (skiing on Palmer Glacier ended August 30th this year.)

In Washington, Crystal Mountain remains largely inaccessible due to fire-related road closures.

On the good news front, the Medio Fire near New Mexico’s Ski Santa Fe is 90 percent contained and the Bridger Foothills Fire threatening Montana’s Bridger Bowl has been slowed by wet weather.

Please keep firefighters and resort employees working to protect ski areas in your thoughts during this challenging time.

Wildfire Hits Soldier Mountain

Instead of celebrating the grand opening of its new bike park this weekend, Idaho’s Soldier Mountain is assessing damage from a wildland fire which tore through the area. An August 5th lightning strike ignited the Phillips Fire, which has burned 1,600 acres as of this morning with only 5 percent containment. “We are heartbroken to inform you that the Phillips Fire passed directly through the heart of our beautiful mountain,” the ski area posted on its social media accounts this afternoon. “The lodge and lifts are still intact, but the bridge that gives access to the resort was destroyed. Since the fire is still an active threat, we will have to wait to further assess the extent of the damage.”

Soldier Mountain operates within the Sawtooth National Forest near Fairfield, not far from the more widely-known Sun Valley Resort. The mountain operates two 1970s Stadeli doubles in addition to a carpet lift and cat skiing operation. Soldier has been for sale since early last year.

Landslide Damages Nitehawk Chairlift

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Photo credit: Johnathan Clarkson

Ground movement has impacted the only chairlift at Nitehawk Adventure Park, a community ski area located in Grande Prairie, Alberta.  Multiple lift towers were caught up when the slide occurred around 3:00 am Tuesday.

Nitehawk staff had been monitoring slow movement this spring and preemptively took chairs and sheave assemblies off the lift.  The ski area had also de-tensioned the Yan triple chair, which first opened in 1994.  The lift started servicing a downhill bike park in 2007.

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Photo credit: Johnathan Clarkson

Nitehawk is operated by the nonprofit Grande Prairie Ski Club.  “We’re thankful this event occurred when no one was on location,” said Board Vice President Whitney Wild in a statement. “Our Board of Directors and management are working with geotechnical professionals to determine next steps and possible solutions,” she continued.  “Nitehawk is no stranger to facing and overcoming adversity.  Operating a successful community ski hill in Northern Alberta is no easy feat.  Our resiliency, along with the incredibly supportive community, will help us deal with this new challenge head on.”

Gondola Riders Injured in Incident at Mont-Sainte-Anne

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Photo credit: CBC Radio Canada

Nearly two dozen passengers suffered injuries this morning when a gondola lift came to an abrupt stop at Mont-Sainte-Anne, a large resort near Quebec City.  The incident occurred just before 10:00 am and cabins stopped suddenly enough that skis and snowboards fell from exterior racks.  At least one cabin became lodged at an angle in a station with a broken window.  Other cabins reportedly contacted towers.  Out of the 21 people injured, 12 were transported to hospitals by ambulance.

By around 10:45, the gondola was restarted in reverse to unload riders.  The rescue operation was completed by noon and the lift is now closed.  A spokesperson for Mont-Sainte-Anne said there were 80 cabins on the line today and an investigation will be undertaken.  “Our main objective is to make sure that everyone is taken care of quickly, then, afterwards, we will have more details on the mechanical aspects,” said Simon Lefebvre with the ski resort.

The gondola, known as L’Étoile Filante, was constructed by Doppelmayr and opened in 1989.  It is the largest of seven lifts at Sainte-Anne, a mountain owned by Resorts of the Canadian Rockies.  Calgary-based RCR operates a total of six ski resorts in Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec.

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Chairlift-Winch Cat Accident Injures Four in Switzerland

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Four people were injured when their chair fell approximately 30 feet from the upper section of the Stoos-Fronalpstock chairlift in central Switzerland last night.  It is believed the chair came in contact with a snow cat’s winch cable before falling.  Such cables are commonly used to assist with grooming steep slopes.  The lift involved is a Garaventa detachable quad with bubbles.

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The accident occurred around 10:00 pm when employees of the Lindt chocolate company were descending from an evening private event.  Two of the four victims sustained life-threatening injuries.  “We are in close contact with the medical team and family members and wish our employees to heal as quickly as possible,” said a spokesperson for the chocolatier.  Six people in two other chairs were rescued uninjured.  The lift will remain closed while an investigation and repairs are completed.

Stevens Pass Evacuates Seventh Heaven Following Tower Incident

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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.

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

Fallen Chair Forces an Evacuation at Montana Snowbowl

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Photo credit: David Erickson via Missoulian

A chair got caught in a terminal guide and fell from the LaValle Creek lift at Montana Snowbowl on New Year’s Day.  The haul rope was damaged enough that dozens of other riders were roped down from the lift.  No one was injured.  The lift remains closed and Snowbowl owner Andy Morris says repairs may take a week or more.

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The station where the incident occurred as seen in 2016.

The 1984 Riblet is the only lift servicing Montana Snowbowl’s 7,560 foot summit.  Riblet lifts do not utilize traditional grips but rather clips that are inserted into the haul rope.  Clips coming loose are rare but not unheard of occurrences.  In 2011, the same lift lost a chair in the loading area.

Lift ticket prices have been reduced as a result of the summit closure.  Snowbowl’s long-awaited Snow Park Expansion may debut before LaValle reopens, giving guests more intermediate options.  The expansion has been under construction for three years and includes a used Riblet double from Snowmass.

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Steamboat Gondola to Reopen Tomorrow

The Steamboat Gondola will once again carry guests Thursday morning, ten days after a gearbox issue halted operation of the brand new lift.  Through a holiday week and major snowstorms, teams worked diligently to make repairs including new parts shipped from Europe.  During the downtime, the Christie Peak and Thunderhead Express lifts provided access to terrain normally serviced by the gondola.

Doppelmayr would like to apologize to the Steamboat community for the interruption in service on the gondola, which was caused by a failure of the main gearbox after only two days of public operation. The backup systems functioned properly and the Steamboat team reacted quickly and appropriately after the gearbox failure. Our technicians and engineers worked around the clock with Steamboat personnel and technical experts from Germany, Austria and Canada, to replace the failed gearbox and associated components. We also took additional steps to improve the overall design and brought in a technical expert to eliminate vibration that contributed to the original failure. We have conducted numerous tests and are happy to report that the gondola will return to service on Thursday. We offer a sincere thanks to Rob Perlman, Dave Hunter and Kurt Castor, and to the Steamboat community for their patience and support. We are confident and proud of the Steamboat gondola and look forward to years of use for skiers and snowboarders.

– Mark Bee, President, Doppelmayr USA

The new Steamboat Gondola is the product of a two part, $15+ million replacement project.  This past summer, upgrades included new level walk-in cabins, grips, hangers, controls, tensioning systems, drive equipment, towers, line gear and parking.  With the number of cabins increased to 137 and line speed pushed to six meters a second, travel time to Thunderhead Lodge is now under ten minutes.  Capacity has increased by 38 percent versus the previous Silver Bullet Gondola.

Sometimes setbacks happen, especially with large scale projects such as this one.  As the video above demonstrates, lifts are built by teams of dedicated people.  I look forward to being one of the thousands to enjoy the new gondola in the coming weeks thanks to their hard work.

Cabin Falls From a Gondola in Switzerland

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No one was injured when a downbound cabin detached from a haul rope near the Swiss town of Schwyz this morning.  The empty gondola fell some 60 feet into a pasture and was heavily damaged.  Approximately 50 people in other carriers were brought into stations normally and the gondola was closed.  It appears the incident happened at or near one of the lift’s 16 towers.

The gondola is a 2014 Garaventa model with CWA Omega cabins and torsion grips.  An investigation will be undertaken by the Swiss Transportation Safety Board.  The company which operates the lift, Rotenfluebahn Mythenregion AG, says it will not reopen the system until it is cleared to do so and the rope is inspected for damage.

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Doppelmayr Worldbook entry for the affected lift.

Update 10/21: The operator issued a statement blaming the accident on high wind.  The affected cabin collided with the tower before falling.  The installation was already in the process of being cleared of riders when the incident occurred, a process which takes 20 minutes.  The gondola remains temporarily closed.