Yesterday at Sugarloaf Ski Area, a ski lift derailment sent skiers plummeting 25 to 30 feet. At least eight people, including three children, were taken to hospitals after the double-chair lift derailed. Dozens of skiers remained on the crippled lift for more than an hour until patrols could get them down.
Such an accident is rare, catastrophic lift failures occur rarely but are not unknown. See Keystone Lift Accident 25 Years Ago.
Since the accident, the resort has received some criticism for its maintenance record. According to reports, prior to the accident the 35-year old chairlift was in line for replacement. One ski safety expert questioned the wisdom of restarting the lift with skiers aboard once the cable began tracking outside the guidance system. He also noted that safety inspections have highlighted an unusually large number of problems with the resort’s older lifts.
But according to a spokesman for the Maine Board of Elevator and Tramway Safety, the regulatory agency which oversees operation of trams, those problems were resolved before Sugarloaf received its 2010 and 2011 licenses. State inspectors say wind played a contributing role in the ski lift, but they’re not ruling out other factors. Inspectors from the Maine Board of Elevator and Tramway Safety are at the Sugarloaf resort to perform onsite inspections.
If the investigations conclude that the wind was responsible for the derailment, then the Sugarloaf ski area may be found negligent in the operation of the lift during such conditions. The lift had been shut down just hours before the derailment due to high winds.