or Connect
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

My first ski lift rescue.

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 

In 15 years of skiing, this is a first.

 

The wife and I drove from NY to visit my brother in NE Ohio this weekend and we all went out to a small ski hill in Chesterland with my niece--a small place called Alpine Valley. I was riding the lift with my niece and my sister-in-law and heard a sound I never heard on a lift before--cachunk cachunk. The lift just stopped and started bouncing pretty high and there was actually a standing wave in the cable. In 15 years of skiing and riding lifts, I have never seen anything like that before. After about a second the chair started moving back for a brief second and I was thinking,"Oh Sh*t". I was actually getting ready to lift the bar and get ready to grab my niece and be ready to jump as I really thought we were going to stat moving. The bouncing stopped and we sat there and sat there and sat there.  It was about 15 minutes before the lifties came out and told everyone there was a mechanical failure and the lift was kaput. About 15 minutes later a steady stream of fire trucks and ambulances started pulling up. By this time, we were freezing and there was a steady stream of sleet coming down and my niece and sister in law were crying. We were actually stuck on the high-point right under a tower. Probably 35 feet or so, so jumping was not an option.

 

I was trying to calm them down and tell them we will get off OK but they were borderline hysterical when the fire trucks pulled up. The lifties and fire were throwing up cables over the line and had a wrap-vest you slip around under your arms to lower you down. Getting off was pretty simply and non-eventful--just slide off the chair and get hoisted down as they let out rope. But we had to convince my niece to let go of the chair as she was terrified. I don't think she will ever ski again.  She didn't want to slide down and was crying all the way.

 

It took about an hour and a half in total before they got to our chair and got us off. I really need boot heaters and won't ski without them now. Sitting idle on a chair in tight-fitting Head Raptors  while freezing sleet is coming down has given me a mild case of frostbite. I didn't even know until I took off my boots in the lodge and the skin from my met heads upwards are blue and totally without feeling. My toes were getting numb and extremely cold on the lift but after about an hour I think I just lost feeling. A stable of EMT's were there as a precaution and they asked if I wanted assistance and I said no, I just wanted to go home. A couple people were being treated for frostbite to the face--the sleet was coming down pretty good. Other than that, nobody was hurt, except for people's confidence. I don't think we will ever get my niece to ride a lift again and my sister in law probably is packing it up too.  They are only occasional skiers but it's a shame for my niece that she probably won't enjoy the sport now. She is only 7 years old.

 

   

 

 

 

 

post #2 of 30

That sounds like an overall terrible experience.  I'm sorry to have it happen to you and doubly sorry to have it happen to your niece on her first day.  Hope your toes come back to life and if your family goes back out things go better for them.

post #3 of 30
Thread Starter 

It wasn't really that bad an experience, outside of the cold, and was a bit interesting. I always wondered how they got people off of chairlifts when they got stuck. It's really not that big of a deal. They just lower you down using a harness and four guys on the rope below. Kind of like riding an open-air elevator.

 

Also, given that it's just a small little hill in Ohio, it's more excitiement than I thought I would have, so I can't complain. smile.gif The toes are warm now but they feel dry and overly sensitive to touch. I have been soaking them in warm water when I got back to my brothers house about an hour or so ago.

 

I just feel really bad for my niece.

 

The management was giving out free hot chocolate/coffee and pastries and taking everyone's names and contact info. Nobody seemed to be that upset, except for a few folks who seemed angry that it took so long. Probably send people free lift tickets or something. We didn't stick around and I just wanted to get home and into a hot bath. I don't think I have ever been that cold before. Sitting idle in the open for 2 hours while it's gusting wind and sleet is coming down puts a new perspective on cold.

 

I didn't even think this would make the news. I just checked google to see if the local media picked it up and it's actually on MSNBC.  

 

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41095299/ns/us_news/

post #4 of 30

Ever wonder what its like to walk down the stairs from the first hill of a steel rollercoaster that won't go over the top?  Yikes!!

post #5 of 30

That is one of the reasons I am a big fan of Hotronics. I have been stuck on a lift for 45mins in the past. Without Hotronics my toes would have been freezing just like the other people on my chair. Getting stuck on a lift is one of the risks of skiing. Be prepared for that possibility.

post #6 of 30
Thread Starter 

I am getting a pair tomorrow. Won't ski without them again. The Raptors are cold boots to begin with and I have been putting off getting them wired. I have already had the toe box punched out but my toes can still get cold if I am not moving around. It wasn't that cold today--upper 20's but sitting there idle in the wind while sleet is coating your boots isn't a nice feeling.  Had no feeling at all in my toes and I actually had difficulty walking to the car--it was a wierd sensation.

post #7 of 30

Chair evacs are something else.  Glad everyone is okay.  Look at the bright side -- it will be in the single digits in MN tomorrow.  That would be a long sit in those temps. 

post #8 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by MojoMan View Post

 

I didn't even think this would make the news. I just checked google to see if the local media picked it up and it's actually on MSNBC.  

 

 

Hi,

 

It made the main evening news here in Australia!!  Surprising seeing as we have floods everywhere at the moment

 

Cheers

 

Robbo
 

post #9 of 30
Thread Starter 



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by robbo mcs View Post



Quote:
Originally Posted by MojoMan View Post

 

I didn't even think this would make the news. I just checked google to see if the local media picked it up and it's actually on MSNBC.  

 

 

 

Hi,

 

It made the main evening news here in Australia!!  Surprising seeing as we have floods everywhere at the moment

 

Cheers

 

Robbo
 


 Unreal. It's funny how the news blows everything out of proportion. I guess the same thing happens when a ride breaks down at an amusement park. 

 

The local newspaper had it on the front page.  "Terrified skiers left clinging for hope."  You've got to be kidding me. It was unsettling for some of the kids but 'clinging for hope?' I thought I was reading a news story about the Titanic. That takes the cake.

 

I understand that one of the gears broke and that explains the small rollback before the rollback mechanism engaged. The only thing that sensationalizing the stories will do is hurt the business. I feel kind of bad for the owner of the hill. It's a small family-owned business and they are likely going to lose business over this. They list six lifts, but there are only two chairs and the rest are tows and t-bars.  It looks like one of those small hills from the 70's--wooden chairs and old-style lodge.

post #10 of 30

so, mojo, kachunk, kachunk is not THE bad sound or movement, for when we might hear that some day. that may be the keys dropping into the cogs to jamb the bullwheel into full stop and prevent rollback. you think? good to know what that sounds, feels like. thanks for the first person account. so sorry it may traumatize your young niece. maybe try to subjugate that trauma by going out on a really great lift on a sunny day and singing some of her fun songs while eating her favorite snack and riding with her parents and her bestest friends. I think it could work.

post #11 of 30

An hour and a half?  How big is this hill?  230 feet?  There was a stoppage of the high speed quad at Camelback (800 foot vertical) when I used to ski there and it took them all of 45 minutes.  Sounds like they need to do some evac drills.  

post #12 of 30

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MojoMan View Post

...The lifties and fire were throwing up cables over the line...

 

Lifties and fire?  Where was patrol?  

 

90+ minutes to evacuate 80 people on a 72 acre ski area?  Unacceptable.  Someone needs to practice lift evacs in the worst way.  

 

Glad it turned out all right for the OP, but sorry for the niece.  
 

post #13 of 30

My first and only (hopefully) lift evac took 45 minutes, and we were the only people on the entire lift.  I think most of the time was spent deciding that the lift was kaput.  It did take a while to get the line over the cable - their crossbow was too whimpy.  At least I was fairly warm (and medicated - bota bag).  The lodge was at the top of the ski area, so I got my first snowmobile ride too.

post #14 of 30

Awesome!  Monday morning QB'ing going on already - love it.  icon14.gif

 

If you weren't there, do you think your criticism is really valid?  Yes, practice makes perfect, but it seems that none of us commenting (other than the OP) know much about this place, save it.  Not everybody has a bunch of highly trained pro patrollers around.  We have to evac a lift with what we have - generally 4-5 people until reinforcements arrive. 

post #15 of 30

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by axebiker View Post

Awesome!  Monday morning QB'ing going on already - love it.  icon14.gif

 

If you weren't there, do you think your criticism is really valid?  Yes, practice makes perfect, but it seems that none of us commenting (other than the OP) know much about this place, save it.  Not everybody has a bunch of highly trained pro patrollers around.  We have to evac a lift with what we have - generally 4-5 people until reinforcements arrive. 


Let me address your question with another: If I were a fairly well-experienced patroller, do you think my criticism is really valid?  

 

The only thing more reliable than internet commenting is internet "WTF do you know?" commenting.  

 

I stand by my position that if it takes 90 minutes to evacuate a lift on a 72 acre ski area, they need to make some serious changes.  Practice, lots of it, and not just patrol, but ski school and lift operators as well so that you don't have just 4 people to work an evac on a busy day.  And just to be clear, it's management's responsibility to ensure that there is adequate rescue capability on hand for the conditions and crowds expected on any given day.  

post #16 of 30

Not getting drawn in Bob. 

 

If you do a great job and fast evac, kudos, but not every area, particularly small ones, has all the resources that larger ones do.  The clear job of an evac is to get people down as quickly and safely as the conditions permit.  Sucks if it's a bit slow, but safety is paramount.

post #17 of 30

Well, my comparison to a resort with 125 acres is a bit valid.  And acreage doesn't tell you lift length.  But, the evac I told you about, ALL employees participated....Rangers (speed cops), patrol, instructors, maintenance guys....I was ASTOUNDED at the number of people who worked for the mountain, I'd never realized how many staff people were there on a given day.  It was a "well-oiled machine".  Seems to me that if you can't unload people from a lift in a timely fashion, maybe you shouldn't be running lifts.  You've got the OP with frostbite and it doesn't sound like the day was all that cold.

post #18 of 30

Close 'em down.

post #19 of 30

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by axebiker View Post

Not getting drawn in Bob. 

 

If you do a great job and fast evac, kudos, but not every area, particularly small ones, has all the resources that larger ones do.  The clear job of an evac is to get people down as quickly and safely as the conditions permit.  Sucks if it's a bit slow, but safety is paramount.


Not arguing with safety, but in the case of a lift evac, efficient speed is safety.  If it takes 90 minutes to clear a small lift line in good weather, then you can expect much greater times when the weather is horrid.  Longer times means greater exposure and hazard to the customers.  

 

You can stay in the discussion or not, but you started out with some criticism and I'd think that perhaps you'd want to see it through.  th_dunno-1[1].gif  I just can't see being satisfied with taking that long for an evac in that situation and not thinking there would be a lot of room for improvement.  

 

Unless that area is a long, extremely narrow rectangle, 72 acres means it's about 600 ft x 600 ft.  Smaller areas should have proportionately smaller resources, sure, but there is proportionally less ground to cover.  

post #20 of 30
Thread Starter 



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

An hour and a half?  How big is this hill?  230 feet?  There was a stoppage of the high speed quad at Camelback (800 foot vertical) when I used to ski there and it took them all of 45 minutes.  Sounds like they need to do some evac drills.  

 

It's your typical midwest hill. It's a small family business so I guess it's kind of over-the-top to expect them to plan for big-mountain type rescue scenarios.  When a tiny 250-foot midwest hill only has 2 chair lifts that are short in length compared to big-time resorts, their emergency lift eveacuation plan is going to be what any other tiny midwest hill has in place--call the fire department and yell, "Help!"

 

Actually, it took about 2 1/2 hours in total to get all 85 people off. We were about 3/4 of the way up and they were moving from the base to the top. As far as Midwest lifts go, it's relatively long and pretty high. In spots, it's higher than most all lifts I have ever been on. Why, I don't know. I guess perhaps because it's an older design. The news says 30 feet but it's definately more like 35-40 in spots.The biggest amount of time was spent just positioning the belaying ropes and they kept getting caught up  when they were sliding the ropes from one chair to the next. At one spot, the lift was high enough that they had to bring out a new set of ropes. Also, some people were taking their time. There were a lot of kids and a good number of elderly folks. Again, this is a small family hill, not Jackson Hole. Two chairs back from us, one elderly lady was so fearfull that she didn't ant to slide off the seat and they had to talk her down. It took about 10 minutes. Anyways, they definately could use a new lift but they probably can't afford one. It's old and creaky and the seats are wooden.

 

post #21 of 30
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by davluri View Post

so, mojo, kachunk, kachunk is not THE bad sound or movement, for when we might hear that some day. that may be the keys dropping into the cogs to jamb the bullwheel into full stop and prevent rollback. you think? good to know what that sounds, feels like. thanks for the first person account. so sorry it may traumatize your young niece. maybe try to subjugate that trauma by going out on a really great lift on a sunny day and singing some of her fun songs while eating her favorite snack and riding with her parents and her bestest friends. I think it could work.

 

Either that or the sound of the gear breaking. It was a pretty audible sound and you could feel it through the chair seat.  

 

She said today she would not go back to that place but will go ski again at Holiday Valley. She was pretty terrified when getting off. I told her I would buy her a new pair of goggles. It would be a shame for this to ruin her appreciation of the sport. It's also good for kids to look forward to being outdoors and active in the winter. I guess the best thing to do is to take her on the short bunny lifts.

post #22 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Lee View Post

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by axebiker View Post

Not getting drawn in Bob. 

 

If you do a great job and fast evac, kudos, but not every area, particularly small ones, has all the resources that larger ones do.  The clear job of an evac is to get people down as quickly and safely as the conditions permit.  Sucks if it's a bit slow, but safety is paramount.


Not arguing with safety, but in the case of a lift evac, efficient speed is safety.  If it takes 90 minutes to clear a small lift line in good weather, then you can expect much greater times when the weather is horrid.  Longer times means greater exposure and hazard to the customers.  

 

You can stay in the discussion or not, but you started out with some criticism and I'd think that perhaps you'd want to see it through.  th_dunno-1[1].gif  I just can't see being satisfied with taking that long for an evac in that situation and not thinking there would be a lot of room for improvement.  

 

Unless that area is a long, extremely narrow rectangle, 72 acres means it's about 600 ft x 600 ft.  Smaller areas should have proportionately smaller resources, sure, but there is proportionally less ground to cover.  



 

80 to 85 people in 90 min. off a triple chair, just guessing there was probably only 2 evac rope teams, in this size area (Bob, you may want to check your math on sqft to acre conversion).

Safety, 10 to 12 min to determine if evac is necessary. At same time evac equip is being readied and located on hill at lift. With a triple chair lift means 27 to 30 chairs being unloaded. 2 Minutes to flip ropes between chairs and 5 to 7 min to move between towers.

Now calc your time per person being roped down - fornula would be 28 chairs divided by 2 or 14 chairs per team, at 2 min/ per chair rope transfer 14 chairs x 2 minute = 28 min per team,  probably 2 towers per rope transfer per team at 6 minutes per tower = 12 min transfer. that total time is (10+28+12) 50 minutes per team. 90 minute total evac time minus 50 min rope transfering time between between chairs and towers leaves 40 minutes for actual lowering of people. Actual lowering time per person would be (40 minutes divided by 40 people) or 1 minute per person. Not bad time, suggestions for reducing the evac time to the last person. The obvious answer is to increase to number of rope teams. Probably not practical in small midwest areas.

I don't patrol at this area and have never been there. But most small areas are the same, with the same issues on a evac. Number of people in air, number of chairs, qty of towers and number of rope teams available.

Evac's take time and and most areas have backup power source for the lifts, but derail or brake jams have no back ups.

 

post #23 of 30

I was training as a patroller at Mt Bachelor in the early 90's when the summit chair was shut down.  Took literally all night -- 12 hours -- to get everyone off the lift, which is above tree line, and windy.  I think most were taken down by rope and harness.  Sounded like utter hell.  I wasn't called in, but it sounded truly 'Epic.'

post #24 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Lee View Post

You can stay in the discussion or not, but you started out with some criticism and I'd think that perhaps you'd want to see it through.

 

I simply disagreed with YOUR criticism of a situation you hadn't been a part of.  I'm glad you're a part a a highly efficient and organized patrol; however there are some smaller areas (as Steve2Ski pointed out), that cannot put 5 teams on the snow.  My hill is one of them.  At least not immediately.  All but about 3 of us are volunteers, and all come from day jobs if the call is made.  I'm over an hour from the hill, and that is not a unique situation.  Usual shift size is about 5, and management actually wanted to CUT that number this year.

 

Now...I said I wasn't going to do this, but you recollect facts differently than I do.  Must be a reading thing, but I'm here to help.  Let's get this straight - together! 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Lee View Post

 

90+ minutes to evacuate 80 people on a 72 acre ski area?  Unacceptable.  Someone needs to practice lift evacs in the worst way.  

 

Glad it turned out all right for the OP, but sorry for the niece.  
 



I started the criticism?  Pardon me?  I believe that it was YOU sir, who started the criticism. 

 

Have a nice day, Bob.
 

post #25 of 30

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve2ski View Post

80 to 85 people in 90 min. off a triple chair, just guessing there was probably only 2 evac rope teams, in this size area (Bob, you may want to check your math on sqft to acre conversion).

 

Oh, I forgot to square 5280.  I was thinking that 5280/640 = X/72 (1 mile x 1 mile = 640 acres), but it's more like 5280^2/640=X^2/72.  Correcting for that makes the ski area about 1800 ft x 1800 ft (I think?).  My mistake, though still not that long a distance.  

 

Quote:

Safety, 10 to 12 min to determine if evac is necessary. At same time evac equip is being readied and located on hill at lift. With a triple chair lift means 27 to 30 chairs being unloaded. 2 Minutes to flip ropes between chairs and 5 to 7 min to move between towers.

Now calc your time per person being roped down - fornula would be 28 chairs divided by 2 or 14 chairs per team, at 2 min/ per chair rope transfer 14 chairs x 2 minute = 28 min per team,  probably 2 towers per rope transfer per team at 6 minutes per tower = 12 min transfer. that total time is (10+28+12) 50 minutes per team. 90 minute total evac time minus 50 min rope transfering time between between chairs and towers leaves 40 minutes for actual lowering of people. Actual lowering time per person would be (40 minutes divided by 40 people) or 1 minute per person. Not bad time, suggestions for reducing the evac time to the last person. The obvious answer is to increase to number of rope teams. Probably not practical in small midwest areas.

I don't patrol at this area and have never been there. But most small areas are the same, with the same issues on a evac. Number of people in air, number of chairs, qty of towers and number of rope teams available.

Evac's take time and and most areas have backup power source for the lifts, but derail or brake jams have no back ups.

 

Nice math.  I see some places to shave time:

- Pre-position evac kits at top lift shacks or run them (and rescuers) up on a snowmobile.  

- 1 person rope "team" - doubles your effective speed on that task, minimum.  

 

One other point is that it apparently took them closer to 3 hours than 90 minutes.  I understand the issues of staffing numbers, but as I wrote above, IMO it's managements responsibility to provide well-trained and equipped staff in sufficient quantity so that it doesn't take so long to evacuate a lift in good conditions.  

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by axebiker View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Lee View Post

You can stay in the discussion or not, but you started out with some criticism and I'd think that perhaps you'd want to see it through.

 

I simply disagreed with YOUR criticism of a situation you hadn't been a part of.  I'm glad you're a part a a highly efficient and organized patrol; however there are some smaller areas (as Steve2Ski pointed out), that cannot put 5 teams on the snow.  My hill is one of them.  At least not immediately.  All but about 3 of us are volunteers, and all come from day jobs if the call is made.  I'm over an hour from the hill, and that is not a unique situation.  Usual shift size is about 5, and management actually wanted to CUT that number this year.

 

Now...I said I wasn't going to do this, but you recollect facts differently than I do.  Must be a reading thing, but I'm here to help.  Let's get this straight - together! 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Lee View Post

 

90+ minutes to evacuate 80 people on a 72 acre ski area?  Unacceptable.  Someone needs to practice lift evacs in the worst way.  

 

Glad it turned out all right for the OP, but sorry for the niece.  
 


I started the criticism?  Pardon me?  I believe that it was YOU sir, who started the criticism. 

 

Have a nice day, Bob.
 

 

Since you brought up that reading thing, It looks like I can help you - I didn't say you started the criticism, I said you started out with it (in your first post in the thread).  

 

And I also said that lifties, ski schoolers and others can (and should) be trained in lift evac.  It doesn't all fall on patrol where I work.  And I pointed out that it was management's responsibility to ensure that adequate resources were on hand to address the situation. <- Which leads me to my final reading comp assistance for you - I didn't criticize the patrol, but the source of your aggravation about this seems (to me) to be centered around some imagined slight against patrol.  

 

hth.  Working together, we'll get it right.  
 

I still think that it took too long to get the lift cleared, given a limited distance and reasonable weather.  Try not to be so testy - you and I have had at least one pleasant PM exchange on Ttips.  

post #26 of 30

Ok...civil discourse, right?

 

One key point to consider - it seems to me that the OP said there was freezing sleet.  That is a complicating factor.  Is 90 minutes too long?  Maybe, but since we weren't there...

 

Operations staff is allowed to assist in evacs, but they are not allowed to run the ropes.  That is patrol only.  I am certain they are up to the task however.  They were most helpful in a lift malfunction last year - they were running ropes up towers so they didn't have to be shot.  The only bad part - 2 patrollers were missed when nobody walked the lift line to check for possible help. 

post #27 of 30

I can't see second guessing whether it should have been 70 or 90 minutes, it seems within reasonable pace to be removing 1 person per minute with two crews.

 

I do agree that a ski area's rescue capabilities should be adequate to protect the skiing public.

post #28 of 30

The purpose of my previous post was to point out that a fair amount of time is spent trying to get the lift operating again.  If it took 90 minutes to evac, you can be sure that at least half of that time was put in trying to troubleshoot the lift.  Often it's far easier to get the lift going again than to evac a bunch of people.  Making the call to start lift evac is not taken casually, and the decision-maker is under a fair amount of pressure.

post #29 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by axebiker View Post
 
Operations staff is allowed to assist in evacs, but they are not allowed to run the ropes.  That is patrol only. 
 


 

That does not seem to make a lot of sense to me.  When I worked at a small ski area many years ago, almost everyone on the mountain was trained in lift evac including running the ropes.  The only thing that was not allowed was climbing towers.  That was left to lift maintenance and patrol.  Seems silly to have people sit on a chair for hours when other staff could be trained and getting people off the lift.  It is not a complicated procedure.

post #30 of 30



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by brownie_bear View Post



Quote:
Originally Posted by axebiker View Post
 
Operations staff is allowed to assist in evacs, but they are not allowed to run the ropes.  That is patrol only. 
 


 

That does not seem to make a lot of sense to me.  When I worked at a small ski area many years ago, almost everyone on the mountain was trained in lift evac including running the ropes.  The only thing that was not allowed was climbing towers.  That was left to lift maintenance and patrol.  Seems silly to have people sit on a chair for hours when other staff could be trained and getting people off the lift.  It is not a complicated procedure.



Probably has to do with litigation happy lawyers.

 

When I go my first lift-op job in 1986, not only did each of the trainees have to evac someone, we each had to be evaced ourselves, boy did that open our eyes. I volunteered to climb the tower to throw the evac rope over the haul rope, patrol and maintenence wasn't even involved, just lift ops. Then when my manager had a hard time whipping the rope over the chairs and grips, he let me try it and I was better at it, but only weighing about 130 pounds back then I wasn't the best anchor person, 3 on each rope was required on our practice evac.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: General Skiing Discussion