The National Ski Areas Association (NSSA) is reporting that 170 chairlifts in the USA could be affected by a serious design flaw. There are currently about 3,500 ski lifts currently operational in the USA.
On March 21st, a gearbox failure at Sugarloaf ski resort in Maine caused the King Pine chairlift to operate in reverse for 1-minute. Some panicked riders jumped from the chair in desperation and 7 were injured and over 200 skiers were evacuated from the lift via ropes. This must have been a harrowing experience.
An initial investigation of the accident revealed a design flaw in the chairlift’s gearbox. The King Pine chairlift remains closed during this investigation
Partek Ski Lifts, the chairlift’s manufacturer, issued a bulletin on Thursday warning ski resorts that have their chairlifts to check specific safety components and keep an eye on a certain electrical switch that they feel is suspect.
Investigators feel that an electrical switch prevented a backup safety system from kicking in and locking the 27-year-old chairlift that malfunctioned last weekend.