The thought of a child slipping from their grasp and falling off a chairlift is a parent’s worst nightmare, and unfortunately, it became a reality for Nathan McLeod on March 19, 2023, at Montana Snowbowl near Missoula, MT. The incident occurred due to a malfunction in the chairlift system, causing the chair-carrying McLeod and his four-year-old son to collide with the first tower and eject the child from his seat.
McLeod recounted the harrowing experience, describing the helplessness he felt as he watched his son plummet while screaming and looking back at him. Despite his best efforts, he was unable to prevent the fall and was left with the horrific memory of his child slipping from his grasp.
The Snow Park chairlift purchased second-hand from a Colorado resort in 2019, carried McLeod, his four-year-old son, and six-year-old son in the chair ahead. McLeod expressed concern about the chairs’ excessive swinging immediately after boarding the lift, particularly for his son in the chair ahead. However, it was his chair that collided with the tower, causing his child to fall and dismantle the chair, leaving McLeod without a backrest and only the center pole to cling to.
The lift operator promptly halted the lift and rushed to aid the fallen child, who fortunately survived the incident unharmed. Sadly, this event serves as a tragic reminder of the importance of safety measures and regular equipment maintenance in ski resorts.
During his interview with The Missoulian, McLeod expressed his dissatisfaction with the casual response of the lift operator, patrollers, and the public waiting in line. He found their reaction to be lackluster, with some even brushing off the incident as a joke, stating, “ha, this is funny, like Snowbowl’s a sh- show.” However, for McLeod, who had just experienced the traumatic event of almost losing his son, such nonchalance was unacceptable. He also pointed out that Snowbowl has a reputation for chairlift accidents, making the incident even more concerning.