Mount Snow in Vermont had a rough opening weekend. Its Challenger Lift malfunctioned around 11:45 AM, and ski patrol ended up evacuating 190 people. Everyone managed to get off safely; it was all over in less than 2 hours (Good job, Patrol!)
Unfortunate timing. Nonetheless, lift evacuations aren’t all that common. Sure, we’ve all experienced sitting on a stopped lift, but usually it’s a mechanical failure that can be fixed fairly readily. I’ve even been stuck a couple of times because the power went out. In both cases, lift operations fired up diesel generators to power the lift enough so we could get off.
Ski patrol trains for lift evacuations on a regular basis. And while the training is up to the individual resort, it’s something that’s taken quite seriously. The ski patrol at Killington Mountain Resort, for example, conducts about three evacuation trainings each month on all its different lifts, for a total of about 35 per year.
So what can you expect in a lift evacuation? The specifics may vary, but in general, a rescue rope with a body harness and/or seat attached is maneuvered over the lift cable. The skier securely dons the harness, slides off the chair, and is slowly lowered to the ground by the patrol.
So what should you do, if you’re stuck on the lift?
First, don’t panic. I’m not a huge fan of heights, but getting upset isn’t going to help the situation. If you find yourself getting anxious, take steps to calm yourself. Breathe deeply: inhale slowly, exhale slowly. Deep breathing tells your body it’s okay to relax. You might also try singing or having a big discussion with your seat mate. Anything to distract yourself is good. Don’t worry: the resort knows the lift has stopped, and they want to do everything they can to get you down as quickly as possible.
Second, don’t jump. I know, I can’t believe I even have to put this down here. Nonetheless, I was behind someone once who actually did this. Granted, the lift wasn’t very high and he didn’t get hurt. But really, it’s a bad idea and a good way to get yourself injured. It’s hard to judge how high up you actually are, and seriously, is it worth risking injury just to save yourself some time? I don’t think so.
Third, listen to instructions. The Ski Patrol will be by to tell you what’s going on and what you need to do. Which means…..
Fourth, be patient. It may take a while. Which is no fun, especially when it’s really cold or windy. But the Patrol has a big job to do, and you’re one of many who need their help.
Hopefully, you’ll never need to be evacuated from a lift. But if you’re curious about what’s involved, here’s a video that can give you an idea:
A good summary of the lift evacuation process. I am a member of the National Ski Patrol, and have had to do a few lift evacs at my resort. Keep in mind every resort uses different techniques and equipment. You local Ski Patrol will talk you through the entire procedure. Also I’d like to echo the importance of the “Don’t Jump” advice. No matter how low to the ground the chair appears, it is much higher than you think. A jump or fall from twice your height can kill you (at worst) or severely injure you (at best). AND– the bounce effect you cause on the lift when you exit the chair can cause the entire lift line to derail, causing EVERY person to fall all the way along the length of the chair. You can kill many people by jumping from a lift. NEVER NEVER NEVER jump from a lift!
Thanks for your insight, Valerie. Good to hear from someone with firsthand experience. And thanks for all the work you do!