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What happens when a ski lift breaks down?

Posted at 11:58 AM, Jan 03, 2023

MARYSVILLE - A ski lift malfunctioned at Whitefish Mountain Resort on Dec. 28, 2022, leaving some patrons stuck on the lift for close to four hours.

MTN News talked with the crews at Great Divide Ski Area about how they keep the lifts spinning and train their employees to respond if they stop.

Ski lifts are typically reliable, but it's important to remember they also operate in tough, alpine conditions, and there may be times when they malfunction.

Travis Crawford, the general manager of the Great Divide Ski Area, says they're prepared for any situation when the ski lifts stop working.

If a lift does stop working, ski patrol is dispatched to check on guests to make sure they are safe and secure.

"So if it's determined that a lift evacuation is necessary, our protocols stipulate that we have a patroller at the top of the mountain work his way down the mountain before we even start evacuating, letting our customers know that we're going to be conducting a lift evacuation to stay in the chair," said Crawford.

Crawford says when that happens it's important for guests to remain calm.

"That involves sending a rope up and over our haul rope, which is commonly called the cable. they bring a rope up and over it we raise a seat up to each passenger and we manually lower them back to the ground to evacuate the chairlift. And we go from there," said Crawford.

Ski patrol practices lift evacuations twice a year, once in the fall, and a second time just before the season begins.

In the history of the Great Divide Ski Area, they've only had five lift evacuations, and they'd like to keep it that way.

"We spend over 2,500 man hours working on these five aerial chairlifts here. So we have a very high uptime and we're quite proud of that," said Crawford.

Crawford also says the lift's primary and secondary systems are checked daily.