Skiers injured as Maine chairlift derails

By Ros Krasny

BOSTON (BestGrowthStock) – Five chairs derailed from an aging ski lift at Maine’s Sugarloaf Mountain ski resort on Tuesday, sending passengers hurtling 25 to 30 feet to the snowy slopes below and leaving others stranded.

Resort officials said six skiers were injured in what they termed a “rope derailment.” A seventh was sent to hospital later as a precautionary measure after he reported feeling some pain.

None of the injuries was believed to be life-threatening.

Ski patrols evacuated stranded skiers from the Spillway East lift, where passengers dangled in frigid conditions for as long as two hours after the 10:30 a.m. derailment.

“Our first concern is for the people who were injured and for their recovery,” Maine’s governor John Baldacci said in a statement that praised the “skill and proficiency” of the responders at the scene.

The incident is being investigated by resort officials, state safety inspectors and other agencies.

At the time of the accident about 220 people were on the lift. Temperatures were around 13 degrees Fahrenheit with sustained wind gusts up to 39 miles per hour.

In September, the Bangor Daily News reported that replacing Spillway, installed in 1975 and modified in 1983, was the resort’s top priority.

“It would be a heavier lift that would work in the wind, which is extremely important up there,” John Diller, Sugarloaf’s general manager, said at the time.

The double chairlift is 4,013 feet long with a vertical gain of 1,454 feet. It is licensed by the state’s Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.

In a statement on Tuesday, Sugarloaf, owned by Michigan-based Boyne Resorts, said the chairlift receives routine daily safety inspections and weekly, monthly and yearly maintenance and testing.

Sugarloaf, in Maine’s Carrabassett Valley about 120 miles from Portland, is the state’s largest ski resort, on the slopes of Maine’s second highest mountain.

The resort was busy on Tuesday after receiving about 20 inches of fresh snow from the major storm that hit the eastern United States on Sunday and Monday.

(Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Jerry Norton)

Skiers injured as Maine chairlift derails