KJZZ reports chairlift at Deer Valley malfunctioned Friday stranding 167 skiers who required evacuation via rope. The lift was fixed the same day and was up and running as usual Monday morning. Deer Valley’s vice president of operations identified the cause of the malfunction as catastrophic failure of a flex coupler:
“It goes between the motor and the gear box and transfers that power between the two. Without it, the gearbox doesn’t turn with the motor’s energy.”
Graff said lift mechanics identified the problem soon after the lift stopped and knew they’d have to evacuate passengers. Resort mechanics believe the equipment failure was due to a manufacturers defect.
“We spend a great deal of time maintaining our chairlifts and inspecting our chairlifts. We hire independent certified lift inspectors to come annually.”
Annual inspections required and overseen by the state of Utah.
“Ski lifts, chair lifts operating at ski resorts, all of them, they have a yearly annual general inspection.” –Mitch Shaw of Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT)
UDOT oversees lift inspections and has an agency within itself called the Passenger Ropeway Safety Committee which examines reports done by third-party lift inspectors. The committee then signs off on those safety reports if all criteria is met.
There’s no evidence the mechanical issue at Deer Valley is related an improper inspection. In fact, a member of the Passenger Ropeway Safety Committee said the part that failed at Deer Valley is historically reliable.
While the situation was not ideal for the folks who got stuck on the lift and had to roped down to safety, we want to commend the lift mechanics who quickly identified the problem and the ski patrol who executed a safe and timely rescue. Well done.