After two chairlifts from the same manufacturer fell off their cables, a key component was carefully examined.
For many skiers, the idea of a chairlift falling off the cable will send showers down their spines. It is extremely unlikely, but still terrible.
Within a month, chairlifts in two different ski resorts in the US broke off and fell. The first incident occurred on 5th December at the 49 degrees North Mountain Resort in Chewelah, Washington, when a double chair fell. Then a second chairlift fell – this time a triple chair on Jan. 9 at the Indianhead Mountain in Michigan.
In both cases, according to the Lift Blog, the chairlifts were occupied. The two people who fell at 49 degrees north suffered minor injuries. However, an inmate in the Indianhead Mountain incident was seriously injured.
Chairlifts fall: different resorts, same components
While they were occurring at different resorts, the incidents involved the same type of elevator. At 49 degrees north it was a 1972 SLI double chair with riblet insert clips. According to Wikipedia there is less than 20 left in service by these chairs in the US
In the Indianhead Mountain ski area in Michigan, the lift was a 1964 riblet triple chair with riblet insert brackets. There is about 90 Riblet triple chairs still in operation.
Some background information: SLI (Ski Lift International) is an Austrian chairlift company their North American division went bankrupt in the early 1970s. Riblet, another elevator manufacturer, bought part of SLI’s inventory in a bankruptcy auction.
While the chairs are not the same elevator model, they have exactly the same components that could have caused the delaminations. In contrast to clamped outside handles, these chairlift models have clips with which the chair is attached to the cables. Most of these elevators have since been replaced by high-speed elevators.
A chair lift at 49 degrees North Resort
49 degrees north made a statement on the morning of the accident. The resort also spent a full report on December 11th after the incident detailed what went wrong with the components of the elevator.
“Our teams for elevator operation and elevator maintenance are tight [inspected] the chair / porter involved in the incident. You could determine that this chair has come off the leash because… a cotter pin went out or was missing from its clip, ”the resort wrote. The resort also reported that it replaced and checked all of the pens on Chair 1 just before the season started.
Today, the marketing director of 49 Degrees North confirmed that the resort has now upgraded the chair using “a redundant chair retention system”. The Washington Department of Parks and Recreation’s tram inspection program has authorized the resort to open the chairlift for operation.
Indianhead Mountain has not released a statement, but a representative has confirmed it that the elevator would be re-inspected. It is not known if the Indianhead detachment was also due to a missing or broken pin associated with the riblet clips. GearJunkie reached out for comment but received no response from Indianhead Mountain.
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Safety requirements for chairlifts
The American National Standards Institute has statutory requirements for the construction and general operation of chairlifts at the national level (Section B77.1, standard for passenger ropeways). After that, the safety management on elevators varies depending on the federal state.
Both of the states where these incidents occurred, Washington and Michigan, have agencies regulating the safety of gondolas, chairlifts, and drag lifts. Michigan Safety program for ski areas The board currently oversees the operation of 157 surface and chair lifts. The Washington Park and Recreation Commission monitors Washington’s elevators, 79 of which are in place.
Both states require inspections by certified or contract inspectors once a year.
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