Poley skiers recall chairlift evacuation on weekend

About 50 skiers spent about 90 minutes stranded on the chair lift at Poley Mountain in Sussex on Saturday.

About 50 people stuck in chair for up to 90 minutes after power failure

About 50 skiers spent about 90 minutes stranded on the chairlift at Poley Mountain in Sussex on Saturday.

Power went out at the ski hill at 5:30 p.m. Saturday and the backup system that's supposed to run the chairlift in an emergency wouldn't start.

Skiiers in the chairlift were removed one-by-one from the chairs in a harness.

Christine Belanger, of Moncton, was on the chairlift at the time it went down with two of her sons. At first, she thought it was a normal slow down due to people having difficulty getting off the chair at the top of its run.

"Then I heard this big boom in the back, so when I turned, I saw the transformer on fire. So I said, 'OK, this is not good news.'"

About 10 minutes later, she overheard someone remarking that the backup generator wouldn't start.

Belanger said it was "scary" being lowered from the chairlift by harness.

"But I felt safe in the sense there were a lot of people around," she said.

Belanger's husband Denis was waiting in the lodge with their youngest child.

He was frustrated by the "lack of information" available from hill officials.

"During the hour-and-a-half of not knowing what was going on, that was a bit excruciating," he said. "Had we had a little bit more information, we would have taken it much more lightly."

Poley Mountain general manager Bill Anderson said the backup generator is tested daily and it worked fine in the morning.

He said there were 12 evacuation kits put into use to remove the people from the chairlift. He said it took 43 minutes to remove the skiiers from about 18 to 20 chairs once the chair evacuation was ordered.

"We always give ourselves 15, 20 or 25 minutes to get the problem solved. We were trying to get in contact with NB Power to see what the problem was or how long they were going to be before we called the [evacuation.]"

Anderson said all staff members are trained in evacuating the chairlift.

He said the communication issue in the lodge during the outage will be looked into, but noted that in a power failure, the ability to use a public address system is lost.    


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