Sunday River Ski Lift Incident Could Have Been Worse – CBS Boston


NEWRY, Maine (AP) — A ski lift accident that knocked a gondola to the ground at Sunday River Resort in western Maine could have been much more serious.

There was only one occupant in the gondola, which has a capacity of eight passengers, and it only fell 10 feet, the station said. The 17-year-old runner suffered only minor injuries late last month.

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A spokesperson for Boyne Resorts, owner of Sunday River, acknowledged that “the outcome could have been worse”.

The so-called “Chondola” – a lift comprising both chairs and gondolas – was operating at half speed in windy conditions when a gondola fell during night skiing on February 23, the resort said.

The gondola broke loose and fell because a gust caused “poor power” in the terminal where skiers disembark at the top of North Peak, said Julie Ard, a spokeswoman for Michigan-based Boyne Resorts.

“It could have been tragic. If it fell 30 feet instead of 10 feet, that would be a different story,” said Mark Di Nola, a ski safety consultant based in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The Chondola was out of service for two days during the busy school holiday week before resuming on February 26.

“We worked directly with the state throughout the investigation and resumed elevator operation after receiving state approval,” Ard said in an email.

The Maine Elevator and Trolley Safety Program said the Chondola was last inspected in November, before the ski season. The agency declined to comment on the investigation as it is ongoing. The Chondola is relatively new, having entered service in 2008.

Di Nola said it is up to ski areas to determine when it is safe to operate a lift and when to shut it down due to wind.

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“It looks like an operational issue — not a design or age-related issue” that have been factors in previous crashes in Maine, he said.

In 2010, five chairs fell 9 meters (30 feet) and eight skiers were injured at Sugarloaf Ski Resort in Maine when a cable jumped off its track. In 2015, another Sugarloaf lift began to back up, forcing skiers to bail out. Seven skiers were injured in this episode. Both incidents involved older elevators that were replaced or overhauled.

In Sunday River, the upper terminal of a chairlift collapsed in 2016 following a period of heavy rain in the summer when there were no skiers.

The ski lifts remain safe despite these incidents.

The National Ski Resort Association has long claimed that using a chairlift is safer than using a lift or driving a car.

No one has died from a mechanical malfunction since 2016 in the United States. Prior to this, the industry had gone for more than two decades without fatalities caused by elevator failure.

A spokesman for Doppelmayr, maker of the Chondola at Sunday River, said operators are constantly assessing conditions, but “gusting winds may still occur spontaneously”.

“Safety and reliability will always be the number one priority, both for the cable car operator and the manufacturer,” Julia Schwärzler said in an email from Austria.

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