by Geoff Rushton
After a ski lift malfunction on Saturday resulted in injuries to five people, Tussey Mountain says state and third-party investigators have been working to determine the cause.
Shortly after 10 a.m. on opening day at the ski area in Boalsburg, a chair carrying skiers and snowboarders slipped along the haul rope and slid backwards, hitting the chair behind it and causing a domino effect resulting in four slipped chairs. Five people sustained non-life threatening injuries and the system was immediately shut down, necessitating the evacuation of about 50 people who were stranded on the lift.
On Tuesday, Tussey Mountain said in a release that the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s Bureau of Occupational and Industrial Safety Elevator Division was immediately notified and agency staff were on-site Saturday and Sunday to help determine the cause. Chairs were removed and studied and chair grips were sent for examination by an investigative company.
“At this time, it appears that weakened spring packs inside the chair lift grips caused Saturday’s incident, and as a result, we are replacing this entire system on our lift,” the release said.
Ski lifts at Tussey Mountain are required to pass inspections in both the spring and fall, including testing of the haul rope and chair lift grips. The ski resort said that those tests were most recently completed in October. Load testing was most recently completed in August. The official state inspection was completed on Nov. 14. All of the equipment passed inspections.
After the grip system on the lift is replaced, Department of Labor and Industry investigators will return for inspection before reopening. Pending completion of inspections, Tussey is targeting a reopening on Saturday. The beginners’ slope and tubing area were unaffected and have remained open.
Tussey Mountain management have been in contact with the individuals who were injured.
“We are grateful to learn of the progress being made with their recoveries,” the release said. “We will continue to work with these individuals, although we will not provide any further statements regarding these individuals out of respect for their privacy.”
The release thanked emergency responders who attended to the injured and assisted ski patrol in evacuations, a process that involved using ropes and harnesses and took about two hours before the final skiers were brought down.
The release also stressed Tussey Mountain’s commitment to safety.
“Tussey Mountain takes lift maintenance and operation seriously. Our mountain may be small compared to others, but our staff is experienced, knowledgeable and passionate about their craft,” the release said. “Our lift technicians receive training on lift safety on an ongoing basis, and our employees conduct individual inspections of our chairlifts on a daily basis. While these procedures have served us without incident until this point, we have begin self-examining our processes to ensure that incidents like this one will not recur.”