Chairlift evacuated after empty chair falls
SECOND CHAIRLIFT INCIDENT IN AS MANY DAYS
Sunday’s incident involving no injuries at Heavenly came the morning after an 8-year-old Northern California girl was hurt after she fell from a chairlift at Squaw Valley Ski Resort.
The incident occurred at roughly 3:30 p.m. Saturday, when Squaw ski patrol responded to a report of a skier who had fallen roughly 40 feet from the Big Blue Express chairlift.
Her injuries were reportedly not life-threatening.
A chairlift serving Heavenly Mountain Resort’s Nevada side was closed after an empty chair fell off, forcing the rescue of 65 riders on Sunday.
A U.S. Forest Service representative who oversees the ski area’s special use permit said a second lift was also shut down as a precautionary measure.
According to Heavenly, an unoccupied chair fell from the downhill line on the North Bowl chairlift around 11 a.m. Sunday, prompting the closure. The lift accesses the upper mountain on the Nevada side of the resort.
Lift operators immediately stopped the chairlift when the incident occurred, and ski patrol safely unloaded 65 guests using rope-aided evacuation techniques. No one was injured during the event. A cause for the equipment failure has yet to be released.
Heavenly suspended operations of the North Bowl chair pending an investigation by the resort’s lift maintenance team.
Resort spokesman Kevin Cooper said the lift will remain down “until further notice.”
“We want to make sure we do a full investigation, identify what that challenge was and address that challenge,” he added.
Jonathan Cook-Fisher with the U.S. Forest Service said that Boulder chair was also closed because of the incident, since it is the same model as the North Bowl chair. Both are older fixed-grip, three-person chairs. The Boulder lift accesses beginner terrain below North Bowl at one of two Nevada-side base areas.
Cooper could not confirm the reason for the additional closure. Both were listed as closed on Heavenly’s website Monday.
Cook-Fisher administrates Heavenly’s special-use permit with the forest service.
As part of Heavenly’s permit the resort will have to file an incident report with the forest service.
“They’re very good about notifying us,” Tahoe Basin Forest Service spokeswoman Lisa Herron said.
According to Herron, Heavenly already notified the Forest Service of the incident and was currently continuing their assessment.
Cooper and Herron both said that all the resort’s chairlifts are regularly inspected as a part of operations permitting.
North Bowl chair had been approved to be replaced with a four-person high-speed quad along with the nearby Olympic chair in Heavenly’s 2006 Master Plan. Plans were revised in order to protect a stand of old-growth trees that would have been removed under the original proposal. The Olympic Express high-speed quad was opened in 2007.