New Zealand Chairlift Snapped by Avalanche Out of Action for Rest of Season

AvyBrains | | AvalancheAvalanche
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The damaged chairlift tower on the Turoa skifield’s High Noon Express is inspected by structural engineers. Credit:

The inbounds avalanche at Tūroa ski area in New Zealand last week that almost killed 2 employees has put a chairlift out of action for the remainder of the season, cutting access to the upper slopes and some of the more challenging terrain.

The High Noon Express chairlift was snapped in two by an avalanche on August 6, cutting access to the upper slopes just a month and a week into the four-month ski season. Skifield operator Ruapehu Alpine Lifts had expected the lift to be out of service for at least a week while the damage was assessed. But in a message posted on the skifield’s Facebook page on Tuesday, its chief executive Ross Copland said the haul rope had been found to be unsafe and there was no suitable repair option that would get the lift back up and running this season.

“I’m really sorry to say the news isn’t good. There are a number of damaged wires in the rope that would require approximately 250 meters of new rope to be installed,” Copland said. “So, unfortunately, guys, that is the end of the High Noon Express for the winter.”

Manufacturing this special rope in Europe and getting it to New Zealand could not be done within a timeframe that could have it installed this season, he said.

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A webcam image from the top of the High Noon ski lift, after a large avalanche at Tūroa skifield on Monday.

The avalanche had been triggered by explosives during routine checks of dangerous snowpacks. Though nobody was injured, staff had to scramble for cover as the avalanche swept over a ski-lift building, carried off a large snow-grooming machine and bent a large tower supporting the top chairlift by 45 degrees.

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