News Roundup: Viral Videos

News Roundup: North Dakota

News Roundup: More Than a Mechanic

Breckenridge Ski Resort confirms at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 22, a chair dislodged from the haul rope of the Peak 8 SuperConnect as it was reaching the top terminal. 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 Peak 8 SuperConnect was closed for the remainder of the day on Thursday. The resort’s lift maintenance team was on site at the time of the incident and worked with the Colorado Tramway Safety Board to report the incident.  

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. 

Since the event, the resort’s lift maintenance team has conducted a thorough inspection of the Peak 8 SuperConnect and consulted with the Colorado Tramway Safety Board. The lift resumed operations at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 23.

Government of Quebec Orders Mont-Sainte-Anne to Remain Closed

Four chairlifts and the gondola at Mont-Sainte-Anne will not carry passengers again until regulators receive a full report into last Saturday’s gondola detachment and the resort takes additional steps to ensure safety. Though no one was injured last weekend, the fall of the cabin was the third serious incident in three years on the gondola and follows numerous other failures and evacuations of lifts at Mont-Sainte-Anne. A nine page order issued today by the Quebec Building Authority (RBQ) prevents operation of the 1989 Doppelmayr gondola L’Étoile Filante as well as the mountain’s three detachable quads and one fixed grip quad. Mont-Sainte-Anne’s two T-Bars and other surface lifts are not affected.

“During the morning startup of the R-176 (L’Étoile filante) ski lift last Saturday, a malfunction occurred in the attachment of cabin number 92 to the cable of the lift,” the agency wrote in a press release. “The checks that were made before the ski lift was put into operation did not comply with the requirements of the CSA Z98:19 standard or the manufacturer’s instructions.” Z98 is the Canadian equivalent of the ANSI B77.1 standard for passenger ropeways in the United States. Specifically, the agency said the lift stopped itself that morning and displayed an “incorrectly positioned grip lever ± 10%” fault. “The mechanic dispatched to the scene carried out a simple visual inspection and authorized the restart of the lift,” the agency stated. Doppelmayr’s manual instead prescribes running the lift slowly in reverse, removing occupants if applicable and running the affected carrier empty through the switch again. If the same fault repeats, the cabin should be removed from the line immediately. Instead, the lift was quickly restarted in the forward direction and cabin 92 tripped another safety system on towers 23 and 24 before falling to the ground. Even though the lift had not opened to the public for the day, employees were on line and had to be evacuated.

The RBQ noted it has issued more than 25 correction notices to Mont-Saint-Anne since 2015. That year, an unnecessary rope evacuation occurred on the Express du Nord due to personnel having insufficient training. Also in 2015, a ski instructor and child jumped from the Express du Sud as their chair, stuck on a tower, was hit by other chairs. The lift continued moving despite the derailment and sustained significant damage. That mishap was blamed on “lack of maintenance.” Six days later, the same lift was rope evacuated due to motor and gearbox failures.

A pair of 2020 incidents on the gondola were both sudden stops that led to guest injuries, some requiring hospitalization. The RBQ noted that “shortcomings with regard to maintenance” were found and it took more than a year for the lift to be repaired (perhaps in part due to Covid). In addition to $1.5 million in upgrades, approximately half of the cabins on the gondola were decommissioned.

Today’s order outlined steps which must be taken before Mont-Sainte-Anne can return aerial lifts to operation. “For the R-176 ski lift (L’Étoile Filante), the RBQ requires MSA to obtain an expert’s report aimed at explaining the malfunction of the equipment and to apply the recommendations of this report, in addition to obtaining a security certificate signed by an engineer,” the agency wrote. “As for the resort’s other ski lifts that have detachable grips…the RBQ orders, among other things, to carry out the verification of the moving parts on all the grips and to obtain a safety certificate signed by an engineer.” Finally, the watchdog requires that Mont-Sainte-Anne submit a training plan to ensure that personnel know, understand and properly apply operating procedures.

Mont-Sainte-Anne’s most recent statement on the incident came yesterday, before the government’s order. “The operation and maintenance of ski lifts are governed by laws and standards that we must respect,” said Maxime Cretin, Vice President and General Manager for Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, Eastern Region. “Constant monitoring of the operation and a detailed maintenance log are required for all our lifts. User safety is a priority for our teams. We continue to offer our cooperation to the competent authorities who will continue their inspections a the beginning of the next week. For the moment, no hypothesis has been ruled out from the ongoing investigation into the gondola,” he said.

The RBQ noted that it does not take revocation of operating permits lightly but that last Saturday’s event could have been fatal. “Ski resort operators are primarily responsible for the safety of their customers,” commented Stephane Petit, Vice President of Client Relations and Operations at the Quebec Building Authority. “Our priority remains public safety. The reopening of the ski lifts will depend on the pace of fulfillment of the requirements set out in the ordinance by Mont-Sainte-Anne.”

Update: Mont-Sainte-Anne issued another statement tonight, 12/16:

“We were informed of the Order from the Building Authority that was issued to us at the end of the afternoon today. We will make every effort to implement the requested requirements and honor the trust of our customers. A review of procedures and training was already scheduled this weekend and additional inspections were also planned for the resumption of operations. Awaiting the final findings of the investigations, we are working on a safe plan to restore activities.

News Roundup: Doubles Save the Day

Cabin Falls from Mont-Sainte-Anne Gondola

Photo credit: Jean-Francois Racine

For the third time in three years the gondola L’Étoile Filante at Mont-Sainte-Anne is shuttered due to an incident. This time no one was injured when an empty down bound cabin detached and fell from the haul rope before the mountain opened for the day. A tower safety system stopped the lift automatically and workers arrived to find the cabin on the ground. The mountain has been closed for at least the weekend while the incident is investigated.

“We continue to verify the entire lift and secure the site, read a statement from the resort. “A full inspection procedure was initiated to verify and validate the causes of the event. The teams of the lift manufacturer as well as the competent authorities were called upon to assist our teams in the inspection of the gondola.”

Mont-Sainte-Anne owner Resorts of the Canadian Rockies noted what happened today is not related to a February 2020 incident which sent a dozen people to the hospital or a March 2020 one which injured another person. The gondola was closed for a year after those accidents and underwent $1.5 million in upgrades before reopening in March 2021. Still, the Doppelmayr-built system is 33 years old and RCR has received criticism for lack of investment across its six ski areas. Mont-Sainte-Anne’s lift fleet averages 35 years old with three detachables dating back to the 1980s. Earlier this year, the well-capitalized Groupe Le Massif offered to buy Resorts of the Canadian Rockies’ two eastern resorts, an offer which RCR declined.

For now Mont-Sainte-Anne passholders can ski at nearby sister resort Stoneham. Mont-Sainte-Anne plans to shift snowmaking efforts to the south side of the mountain not serviced by the gondola and will update guests when it can reopen.

News Roundup: Allegations

  • With energy at a premium in Europe, Leitner showcases technology which regulates the speed of a ropeway based on rider demand.
  • The nonprofit which has been running Big Squaw says the sale to Big Moose Development still hasn’t been completed and this season will continue as normal.
  • Sugarbush confirms a Heaven’s Gate replacement is in the works but it won’t happen in 2023 as lift prices surge and lead times increase.
  • Ropeway pioneer Willy Garaventa dies at the age of 88.
  • Los Angeles releases the Environmental Impact Statement for the Dodger Stadium gondola project.
  • Names for the five new Skytracs at Jack Frost Big Boulder are: Blue Heron, Harmony, Paradise, Pocono and Tobyhanna.
  • Groupe Le Massif remains interested in acquiring Mont-Sainte-Anne from Resorts of the Canadian Rockies and would also be open to acquiring Stoneham as part of a deal.
  • After multiple years of construction, Ontario’s Mt. Baldy finally has a new chairlift.
  • Mount Snow will sell more double, triple and quad chairs for charity.
  • New York’s Attorney General sues the owners of Labrador Mountain and Song Mountain, alleging their purchase and closure of nearby Toggenburg was anti-competitive. Former Toggenburg/current Greek Peak owner John Meier agreed to pay the State $195,000 and will cooperate in the case against Labrador and Song’s parent company.
  • The Governor of Utah throws his support behind the Little Cottonwood gondola project.
  • A new document shows where Mammoth’s relocated Panorama Gondola and new Big Bend chairlift would run as part of the Evolving Main project.
  • The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania again seeks an operator to revive the Denton Hill Ski Area.

Mont-Sainte-Anne Gondola to Reopen

367 days since technical problems forced its closure, L’Étoile Filante is reopening at Mont-Sainte-Anne. The gondola suffered not one but two incidents in February and March of 2020 before Covid paused skiing globally. Over the past many months, the resort, Doppelmayr and the Government of Quebec have worked to resolve unspecified technical challenges.

“We have just received approval from the Régie du bâtiment du Québec, which has given the green light for an official reopening,” said Maxime Cretin, Vice President and General Manager, Eastern Region for Resorts of the Canadian Rockies. “This approval was received following the security and compliance clearance obtained from the contract engineers. It confirms that the ski lift is safe and fully functional. We would like to sincerely thank you for your patience, understanding, resilience and loyalty through this difficult time. We know the wait has been long and the journey has been strewn with disappointments. Today, we are happy to share this good news with you and to finally be able to turn the page. We would also like to thank all of the employees and stakeholders for their continued collaboration in this very complex case.”

For the rest of this season, the gondola will operate with 50 percent of its cabins (45 of 90) with Covid loading protocols in place.

News Roundup: Exceptional Ride

On the Black Quad lift front, there always seems to be something. And, the engineering firm who designed the lift has come back with quite a few changes that need to be implemented by Pfister Mountain Services, including changing out some sheave assembly wheel combinations at a few towers and a major overhaul of tower 13 cross arm and uphill sheave assembly. None of this is a quick fix at this point in our construction phase and comes as unwelcome news. And, of course, tower 13 is in a very difficult spot to get to, especially for what equipment will be needed to execute the cross arm changes. No timetable or budget as been provided as of yet. We will continue to keep you posted as news warrants. Certainly frustrating after all this time as we’d like to see our money put to good use for you. All I can say is that the Quad will be a part of our future here at Magic so we can expand uphill capacity and lift redundancy as we grow.

News Roundup: So Close