Red Lodge chairlift. photo: FTO/marc guido

Last Wednesday two 17-year-old snowboarders were riding a chairlift at Red Lodge ski resort when the chair they were riding detached from the ski lift cable.  The two kids from Billings, Montana fell 30 feet when the chair detached and were both injured.  Their injuries were reported by ski resort officials not to be life threatening.

The lift reopened 2 days later after a safety inspection by the Forest Service and a private engineer.  The inspection’s findings are still under investigation although it’s suspected that high winds played a large part in the chair’s release from the cable.

“Wind is always a concern. We monitor it very closely, especially in regard to our lift operations. We were monitoring wind throughout the day, and I would say at mid-mountain, where this lift operates, our wind conditions were moderate. With the conditions we were seeing, we thought it was not a problem.” – Jeff Carroll, resort spokesmen tells the LA Times

Two days before this incident, a chairlift at Montana Snowbowl fell off the cable in the loading zone.  No one was hurt in that accident.

Kinda scary these things can just fall off…

Has anyone ever heard of this happening?

Does this happen often?

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  1. Miles Clark says:

    Chairlifts are freaky enough without knowing about this kinda thing.

  2. Jo says:

    bad economy = ghetto maintenance at small resorts.

  3. Nate says:

    This is complete hearsay but I heard that they were swinging the chair and hit one of the poles.

    • Anonymous says:

      I have been a lift operator for many years. If a chair does fall off my first guess would be catastrophic failure of some kind, which is rare. Depending on the type of grip, a chair will usually slide along the haul-rope and be noticeably misplaced before detaching completely. If it was a riblet lift, those have weird grips that are braided into the haul-rope, these chairs do not slide. The chair somehow swing and hitting a tower sounds like a likely cause of this sort of thing. Which is still very rare.. peas

  4. Anna says:

    Snowbowl Montana is claiming that the chair (without anyone on it) detached because it hit the liftie in the loading zone.

  5. Scott R. says:

    Lets not forget about Sugarloaf Maine’s lift fall last year in December.

  6. ullar says:

    As a former liftie…yes these things can happen, but the likley hood is slight….even if the chair was swung by wind or people and it hit the pole all that should happen is the chair derails…the lift cable might of been flawed or jeebus is showing his hate for big sky skiing…

  7. Yanick says:

    Riblet chairs do not like to come into contact with other objects because it can cause the “clip” that holds the chair in the haul rope can pop out. Windy conditions can cause the chair to contact the “halo” around a tower and the clip can be popped out of the haul rope. At that point gravity takes over.
    If you wanna be safe make sure the lift mechanics at your ski area know what they’re doing, aren’t bullied by management, and are paid well !

  8. Garry S. says:

    Chairlifts are mechanical. Much like anything mechanical, they will at some point fail or have an accident. It does not matter how many inspections or maintenance is completed. This is something that all skiers acknowledge and take as a risk of skiing when they purchase a lift ticket. Read the back of the ticket some time if you are bored. If you think a lift chair falling is bad, then don’t watch this: Let’s just say if you are ever on a chairlift and it starts to roll backward and it seems faster than it should, jump. No matter where you are, you probably have a better chance of surviving. Yes, even if you are on Red Dog over the canyon.

  9. Sam says:

    I am a local at Red Lodge and my buddie is a liftie there. Where the chair detached is at the bottom of a ridge, almost completely shielded by the wind. There is NO way the wind could even rock the chair. That lift is only windy at the top. The kids bounced the chair into the pole, which detached and they where lucky to fall onto the slope of the ridge. The only injury was a broken finger of one of the kids.

  10. Yanick says:

    When riding a lift from 1969 don’t ” bounce the chair into the pole ” it might could cause you to break your finger !
    Why would some kids be bouncing the chair on an extremely windy day ?
    Even if the lift you are riding is brand new the signs say “don’t bounce the chair” !


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