Snowcat got your tongue?
Opening Day Lift Malfunction at Tussey Mountain
By M. Scott Smith, DCSki Editor
December 16, 2017

On December 16, 2017, skiers and riders underwent a chairlift evacuation at Pennsylvania’s Tussey Mountain after several chairs slid from the haul rope and crashed into each other. Several skiers were transported to a local hospital with non-lift threatening injuries as a result of the accident. Tussey Mountain has temporarily closed its ski operations while an investigation is underway.

Tussey Mountain released the following statement:

    “At approximately 10 a.m., a malfunction occurred on a section of one of our chairlifts. A chair carrying skiers and snowboarders slipped along the haul rope and slid backwards into the chair following it, which caused a domino effect that subsequently resulted in a total of four slipped chairs. Our staff immediately stopped the lift from running and notified our Ski Patrol, who then contacted appropriate local Emergency Medical Staff and began the process of evacuating individuals from the lift.”

According to Tussey Mountain, the malfunctioning chairlift had been previously tested and given a passing grade by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry’s Bureau of Occupational and Industrial Safety Elevator Division.

“We have begun taking the necessary steps to ensure a situation like this will never happen again,” the ski area said in a statement.

Tussey Mountain is in the process of contacting the lift manufacturer to diagnose what caused the malfunction, and will work with appropriate state agencies to ensure the lift’s safety prior to re-opening.

“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this caused to all of our skiers and snowboarders and want to thank everyone for their patience, understanding, and support,” a representative from Tussey Mountain said.

According to social media pictures posted by guests at Tussey Mountain, the lift that malfunctioned was the Quad Chairlift, the only quad chairlift at the central Pennsylvania ski area. The Quad Chairlift is a fixed-grip chairlift, with each chair mounted permanently at specific distances along the steel haul rope. It’s not clear what would have caused multiple chairs to slip from the haul rope, and as of press time DCSki had not determined the manufacturer or installation date of this chairlift.

This is not the first chairlift accident in the Mid-Atlantic region. On February 20, 2016, a mechanical malfunction at West Virginia’s Timberline Resort injured several skiers after a cross-arm on one of the lift towers separated from the tower and landed on the ground. That lift tower re-opened later in the season after an investigation and repairs were made.

The chairlift infrastructure at ski areas across the country continues to age, however the National Ski Areas Association indicates that chairlift accidents are rare thanks to significant inspection and maintenance procedures followed by ski resorts.

“Riding a chairlift or gondola while skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, or even just sightseeing, is an exceptionally safe and secure mode of transportation,” the National Ski Areas Association reports.

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2 years ago

Yes, I read that the bolts that hold the chairs to the haul line were not as tight as they neded to be. Thus they slid into one another when under load on the steep part of the lift line. Must of been a scary expereince.

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