Marble Mountain skiers stranded for hours following lift malfunction
Operations manager Richard Wells says 2 teens sent to hospital suffering mild hypothermia
As many as 250 people were left stranded after a malfunction shut down a ski lift at Marble Mountain on Saturday.
Firefighters, search and rescue groups from around the region, and ski patrol trainees all worked together to evacuate the lift, a process that took between two and a half and three hours.
Some skiers spent that time suspended in the air as high as 18 metres, or three storeys.
"Everyone was very cold," said Marble Mountain operations manager Richard Wells. "Anyone on a four pack, they were certainly bundled together. If you were there by yourself, the winds and whatnot, the elements are going to affect you a little bit differently."
The incident occurred mid-morning Saturday on the "Lightning Express" chairlift. A malfunction caused one of the system's sheaves — the wheels that keeps the lift's haul rope running — to stop turning, bringing the system to a sudden halt.
Wells said crews are investigating the cause of the malfunction.
While two teens were sent to hospital suffering mild hypothermia, Wells said there were no injuries, and skiers were "in great spirits."
Wells said in his 12 years at the resort it's the first time he's witnessed a chairlift evacuation for any purpose other than training.
"We've always trained for it and estimated about a five-hour process to get the entire line done there," he said. "So considering we cut in half that timeline, we're very proud of how it all came together and the support again that we did have."
Wells estimates there were between 220 and 250 people on the lift at the time, with crews needing around 15 minutes per chair to evacuate everyone.
At roughly the same time as the Lightning Express, a separate chairlift, the "Newfie Bullet," also suffered a mechanical shutdown involving its new motor.
"In short, it was a mechanical issue that we identified last night. Actually, we had to shut down early last night for night riding," Wells said.
"We thought we had the same issue fixed, but unfortunately [we] didn't. Luckily we got people off of that one, though."
Wells says both lifts will likely remain closed for the next couple of days for assessment and repairs.