tram cable car squaw valley usa malfunction
photo by: Keith Brauneis

Harrowing Account of Cable Car Malfunction: by Nat Milder

It was about noon on a big Saturday stormy powder day at the end of March. We had been lapping KT since opening and although the snow was awesome, it was getting hit hard by the weekend crowd and the line was pretty ridiculous. We were about to take a break when we heard that the tram was open with access to Tower 16! We headed right over and got on the next tram. It was probably 3/4 full of people that seemed stoked that the masses over on KT didn’t seem to know the tram was open.

It was a completely normal tram ride up until we passed Tower 1. The operator warned us about the swing at Tower 1, but right as we passed the tower it felt like something tripped the emergency stop and the car stopped suddenly just uphill of the tower. It was  much more of a swing than usual, almost enough to knock someone off their feet. I don’t think anyone fell down, but most had to grab onto something to keep their balance. After that the car was stopped for what felt like at least 15-20 min getting blasted by some pretty intense wind gusts. That day there were 100+ mph gusts on the ridges for most of the afternoon.  Most people in the car were in good spirits and joking around, but you could tell that there were a few people that were NOT ok being stuck in a crowded enclosed space. I knew that we were only about 25 feet of the ground, so even if we had to evacuate it wouldn’t be that big of a deal and just tried to think about pow turns on T16! It would have been way more scary if we were stuck dangling on the other side of Tower 1 or 500 ft off the ground over Silverado!

This video is of the skiing right after this incident

Eventually the car started moving again at a very very slow speed and we creeped up to High Camp close to an hour after we got on the tram. There were a couple people from Ski Corp waiting at the top and giving out vouchers but I didn’t bother complaining and just made my way over to T16 for an untouched pow run as a reward for the ordeal. I never heard any detail of what happened other than that something broke and the tram operator seemed sketched out by whatever it was. The tram was closed for “maintenance” for a couple days and has since been operating normally as far as I know.

That’s my harrowing tale of survival on the Squaw Valley Tram!

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