A 35-year-old chair lift due to be replaced failed in high winds at a US resort, sending skiers – some of them children – plummeting into ungroomed snow far below that fell with the Northeast’s recent blizzard and softened the landing.
At least eight skiers were injured.
At least eight people, three of them children, were taken to a hospital after the double-chair lift at Sugarloaf derailed during a busy holiday week at the Carrabassett Valley resort 120 miles north of Portland, Maine.
Dozens of skiers remained on the crippled lift for more than an hour until patrols could get them down.
High winds kept the failed lift out of operation at the start of the day but it was later deemed safe to use before the accident, said Ethan Austin, spokesman for Sugarloaf.
The resort said a cable that supports the chairs jumped off track, though the exact cause of the failure is being investigated. Wind were gusting at 40mph at the time.
The resort said the lift, which went into service in 1975 and recently passed an inspection, was due to be replaced, partly because of vulnerability to wind.
Five chairs fell 25 to 30 feet onto a ski trail below, Mr Austin said.
Rebecca London, one of the skiers who tumbled to the snow, said that her face hit a retaining bar but her goggles spared her from serious injury. She credited new snow underneath the lift with a soft landing; the resort said it got 20 to 22 inches in Monday’s storm. “Thankfully, they didn’t groom it last night, so they left it like it was,” she said. “So the snow was all soft.”
Most of the skiers who fell appeared to be stunned but okay, she said, and the ski patrol was on the scene within minutes to treat the injured.