Montreal

Hundreds of skiers left stranded for hours after Bromont chairlift breaks down

Employees tried to fix the problem, but after an hour and a half without success, they began evacuating the skiers stuck on the chairlift.

Over 200 people were on the lift when it stopped

Over 200 skiers were trapped when the lift broke down just after 7 p.m. Wednesday night. (Submitted by Carl Beaulieu)

A mechanical failure on a chairlift at the Bromont ski resort left hundreds hanging Wednesday night.

Over 200 people were on the lift when the outage began just after 7 p.m. 

Eric Gervais, a ski patroller and teacher from Sutton, Que., said he only managed to do one run on the hill before he got stuck on the lift.

Four-and-a-half hours passed before he was able to get off.

"It's frustrating because there was no communication before they started evacuation," he told CBC Montreal's Daybreak

"It took too long."

Calling for reinforcements

Gervais said he was in a protected gondola, but people in chairs "completely froze in the wind."

"Just think about a mother with kids on a chairlift in the wind. To me, this isn't a regular operation."

After a couple of hours, once they realized only eight staffers were trying to evacuate hundreds of people, Gervais and his friends called the Bromont fire department from a cell phone to see if they could assist.

"They said that all the staff of the fire department was ready to go to help at Bromont," he said. "But nobody called them."

Watch one of the evacuations in the video below:

The skiers had to be taken off the lift one by one after a mechanical failure. 0:17

Because the ski hill is on private property, the fire department said it couldn't go unless called by management.

"What, if we start a fire in the gondola, you'll come?" Gervais asked them. "[They said] 'yes, but until that happens, I need the ski hill [to grant permission].'"

Eventually, staff from the ski hill came and evacuated the gondola, using cables and a harness to get Gervais and his group to the ground.

Gervais said the staff was efficient and professional, but it took too long for the ski hill to decide to evacuate.

Evacuation was a last resort

Marc-André Meunier, the director of marketing and communications at Ski Bromont, said the proper procedure was followed.

"When we make the decision to go to manual evacuations, there's no turning back," he said.

Meunier said that because they knew evacuations would take hours, "before taking that call, you want to be sure that you've tried everything to start the engine."

He said that they were comfortable waiting an hour-and-a-half before starting the evacuations since the weather was relatively warm.

Meunier said that if it had been colder, they would have evacuated the hill sooner.

The evacuation itself took time because people had to be taken down one by one, he said.

The cause of the breakdown is still not known.

With files from Radio-Canada and CBC Montreal's Daybreak

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