We’ve been conditioned to think nothing of it; willfully grabbing a seat on a metal bench soon to be dangling dozens of feet in the air with no safety net to speak of. The faster, the better, of course, so that we may be able to get as many laps of the mountain as possible.
But a pair of chairlift incidents over the weekend might give us pause the next time we hitch a ride up the mountain.
As if Vail needed to make more headlines about the issues the resort conglomerate is having at its flock of resorts this season, a 22-year-old man is recovering from “serious injuries” he suffered at Wildcat Mountain on Saturday.
The snowboarder fell nearly 10 feet off the Snowcat lift when one of the chairs broke off.
The Snowcat triple is a 1974 Riblet lift that serves beginners out of the base area at the ski area in Pinkham Notch, N.H. It is closed until further notice.
Tom Eastman spoke with Wildcat skier Jeffrey Dowdy, who told the Conway Daily Sun reporter that he and his son and granddaughter were at Wildcat when the incident occurred.
“I heard a noise and looked over and the chair was on the ground and a man who had been riding it was sitting there about 30 feet from where you first sit on the chair,” Dowdy said. “I then skied over. The detachment occurred before the first tower. It had been going from side to side, I was told.
“The ski patrol was doing a very good job. They put the young man onto a sled and brought him down to an ambulance. They restarted the lift and ran it to the top to get the people off — I had thought they would have done a lift evacuation, but they didn’t.
“We all love Wildcat. I’m sorry this whole thing is happening. But it seems to be a bigger issue than just here.”
According to liftblog.com: “Chairs utilizing Riblet insert clips have fallen on occasion in recent years including last season at Indianhead, Michigan and 49 Degrees North, Washington. Within Vail Resorts, a Riblet triple chair fell from Heavenly’s North Bowl triple in 2016. Approximately 275 Riblet lifts currently operate worldwide, mostly in the United States.”
The other recent incident happened at Beech Mountain Ski Resort in North Carolina, where two guests were sent to the hospital on Friday after a snowmaking hydrant below a chairlift broke, blasting the skiers with freezing water on the occupied chair above.
According to Greenville, S.C.’s WYFF: “Management at Beech Mountain Resort said that a guest skied into the water and air hydrant Friday while snowmaking operations were underway. Video circulating on social media shows skiers on the chair lift getting hit by blasts of water.”
Both incidents are, obviously, under investigation.
Eric Wilbur can be reached at email@example.com.