GREAT FALLS — Around 12 p.m. Saturday, 87 skiers were evacuated by rope from Showdown Ski Area’s largest chairlift, according to a press release obtained by MTN News from Avery Gold, the ski hill’s marketing director.
Saturday marked the first time in its over 80-year history that Showdown has had to fully initiate a rope evacuation from a chairlift, although “Ski Patrol and staff rigorously train for this situation,” the release stated.
No injuries were reported.
A “mechanical incident” initially resulted in the stopping of the triple chairlift, nicknamed “The Payload.” Jim Hoxter, the mountain manager, reportedly prompted the rope evacuation “because of the uncertain duration of the repair [of the chairlift]; and for the comfort and safety of […] guests,” the statement says.
The release also states that ski patrol teams “had the first ropes over the lift and began evacuation within 16 minutes.”
One hundred thirty three skiers sat aboard the chairlift at the time of the incident. All 87 evacuees had descended, with the help of “over 30 volunteer and paid patrollers,” after a period of approximately 70 minutes.
As noted in the release, the incident began around 12:50 p.m., while 2:08 p.m. marked the moment at which Showdown’s maintenance team “reported the mechanical incident was fixed,” allowing the remaining 46 passengers to unload via normal procedures.
Temperatures ranged from “34 to 38 degrees” throughout the episode, the release states, in accordance with sunny skies.
The specifics, with respect to exactly what mechanical failures led to the incident, were not elaborated upon in detail within the statement obtained by MTN.
Showdown says the triple chairlift is once again operating smoothly and at full capacity.
“We’re very proud of the Great Falls Ski Patrol, our maintenance department, lift operators, ski school, and entire staff for their speed and professionalism. We’d also like to thank our guests for their understanding, cooperation and patience,” the statement says.
-Zachary Schermele reporting for MTN News