An electrical malfunction Sunday left approximately 160 skiers and snowboarders stuck on a chairlift at a busy Vermont resort — for a few hours, in cold temperatures.
"You don't think it's going to happen," said frequent skier Keri Crafts, a Burlington resident who was dangling with her daughters — one of them 9 years old — on a chairlift at the Stowe Mountain Resort.
"My daughter was just uncontrollably crying," Crafts recalled, describing the experience that for some of the affected guests lasted longer than two and a half hours.
Stowe said its Lookout Double lift suffered an electrical problem, and a backup engine wasn't working, either.
Cellphone video from skiers and riders showed patrollers evacuating guests from the mile-long lift using ropes, getting everyone down safely. A few folks, closer to the ground, chose to jump.
"It's never a good idea to jump from a ski lift," said Molly Mahar, who heads the trade group Ski Vermont.
Mahar described the type of emergency that happened Sunday as "infrequent."
"Vermont ski areas are highly committed to lift safety," Mahar told necn. "This is something they have plans for, and they regularly train their personnel in these procedures."
In a statement, Stowe Mountain Resort apologized to its affected guests and said this was the first time in nearly a decade it's had an evacuation.
The resort said its focus on equipment maintenance, upgrades, and training is aimed at ensuring the safety and care of guests.
"The safety of our guests and employees is our number one priority," Stowe Mountain Resort spokesman Jeff Wise said in the written statement. "There is a very high level of pride and professionalism that the Mount Mansfield Ski Patrol takes in the safety and care of our guests."
According to Steve Monahan of the Vermont Tramway Division, under state policy, lifts are inspected before the start of each season and in spot checks throughout the year.
Industry sources say ski areas usually need additional inspections for insurance purposes.
Monahan couldn't comment on the Stowe case, because it's still under investigation, but said his inspectors tend to tally three or so evacuations a year.
This year, statewide, the Vermont Tramway Division has counted five evacuations, blamed on a range of causes, Monahan said.
Monahan said the state would not allow failed lifts to run again until problems are identified, repairs are made, and state inspectors are confident the machinery has passed a re-inspection.
Crafts said she really appreciates the hard work of Stowe's ski patrollers, but she wished someone could have offered blankets, or at least better updates on what was going on.
"It would've be nice if we had a little more information than just being trapped," Crafts said.