Tuesday, November 29, 2005 11:00 AM
A gondola at a ski resort (Lake Louise) suffered a breakdown on Sunday, stranding ~75 skiers. The rescue took about 5 hours, including the time it took to determine that the lift was not immediately repairable. There was a huge media presence because of a Womens Cup Downhill event, and the frustrated parents of kids stuck on the gondola made a lot of headlines. (One 'squeeky wheel' parent could give Markey a run for his money.) The biggest complaint was that people (including kids) stuck on the lift were left freezing in the dark for hours with no communication, until some guy litterally dropped onto the roof of the gondola, opened the door and said, "Hi, my name is <insert name>. Is everyone OK?"
This types of gondolas operate at many amusement parks as well as ski resorts. It could happen anywhere. And unlike a roller coaster lift hill, it is very difficult for staff to contact stranded passengers. What are the standard procedures for disabled gondola rides at parks?
Tuesday, November 29, 2005 11:59 AM
That's always been my biggest fear when skiing.
I was stuck once, on a swinging chairlift.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005 1:14 PM
That was one of the craziest experiences of my childhood:
Being stuck on a chairlift in the austrian alps in the middle of a heavy thunderstorm.
Lightning had struck the lower station, and the entire lift stood still for about 45 minutes - there was a whole group of us kids who were being on a summer camp organized by our local sports club, all swinging in our open seats in increasingly pitch black darkness and pouring rain, with lightning and thunder all around.
It was quite shocking ... being stuck for some 45 minutes 6 m off the ground - at some point i seriously considered jumping down because I was already within sight of the lower station, it must have been even worse for those further up the hill.
Luckily we all got down there safely - no one was injured.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005 4:55 PM
I'm sure they have similar policies & procedures to those of any ski patrol. If they can't get the lift started, lock & tag it out, ski the lift line telling people what's going on, pull out the evac gear, and bring them down one by one. It's fairly slow, but safer than it sounds. If there's any question, you can hoist a team member up to the chair to help them. Not really a big deal, although it can be a PR black eye if not handled well.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005 4:58 PM
"Hi, my name is <insert name>."
Slim Shady! :)
Tuesday, November 29, 2005 7:17 PM
There's a big difference between a gondola that holds a bunch of people way super high in the sky and some chair lifts not so super high off the ground.
One's... really high and other ... isn't really high.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005 7:36 PM
...And that can be important. Consider the Sky Ride at Cedar Point, for example. I think every point along the line could be reached without too much difficulty using a bucket truck or possibly a scissor lift (although the latter would destroy the flower beds). The safest way to get everybody off, of course, is to pull the cable 'round using the backup engine or the hand-crank if it is physically possible to move the system. But if an evacuation were necessary, it wouldn't necessarily be terribly complicated.
On the other hand, the parking lot tramway at Kennywood goes over some terrain which, for all intents and purposes, is completely inaccessible from the ground. If they can't move that one, evacuation could be a whole lot of fun...!
--Dave Althoff, Jr.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005 10:00 AM
Ski areas have very simple and portable evacuation gear to remove people from chairlifts. Ski Patrolers even carry gear that allows them to self evacuate if needed. For the guests, a rope with a harness is thrown over the cable. The guest puts on the harness and a brake device placed on the snow slows the decent of the guest. The device is not fastened to the snow, it just uses to weight of a couple of patrolers to hold it down.
I once saw a 5000 foot long chairlift evacuated by multiple ski patrol teams in about 20-30 min. It was done with amazing efficiency. The lift stopped because the cable derailed from the depression sheave at the bottom terminal.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005 11:07 PM
Methods will vary, but we use a compound pulley with a Grigri (example: http://www.mtntools.com/cat/rclimb/belayrap/petzlgrigri.htm
) tied into a patroller in harness on the ground. Makes for slow descents, but it's easier. If the chair's fairly low (<60 ft), you can use a belay chair for the evacuee (upside down T shaped device, which you slip under your thighs until it's tight against your body), but the higher gondolas usually require a full harness.
I'm not familiar with the Kennywood chair, but there are some methods of pulling people away from the chairs. Does anyone have any pictures of it?
Thursday, December 1, 2005 1:11 PM
According to the second article the lift stopped at 3:00 p.m., but they didn't even begin evacuations until 5:30 p.m. No explanation was given as to why they waited so long to even begin. No wonder everyone was angry.
Thursday, December 1, 2005 3:57 PM
Akward, I ALWAYS get stuck on Ski Lifts when I go skiing, quite fun, especially when you have a view up the mountain your going to ski down. I don't get scared either. I meen, they wouldn't design them to kill us, and I'm sure they have these breakdowns in mind. theres nothing to be afraid of.
Thursday, December 1, 2005 6:22 PM
Actually, Kennywoods system is much more modern than CP's. Kennywoods has a battery back up, like Morey's Wild Wheels Pier, and other newer units. Power loss just kicks in a slow back up motor, enough to get 1 full cycle.
However, no one wants to be working if their is a cable tangle or any other fun event where they cannot move it. You want to be off that day.
All those sky rides are first to close when severe storms get within 10-15 miles. Its a far greater safety concern to have panicing riders stranded in dangling chairs while maintenence and ops staff flip coins to see who will mountaineer about to go retrieve them, vs. closing early and lossing some revenue.