Chairlift evacuated after wind breaks communications cable anchor

A broken communications cable anchor on the Stoke chairlift at Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR) led to the evacuation of 35 people from the lift on Feb. 12.

A broken communications cable anchor on the Stoke chairlift at Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR) led to the evacuation of 35 people from the lift on Feb. 12.

The lift came to a halt just after 3 p.m. when high winds broke a communications cable anchor on one of the towers. The cable, which runs along the tops of the towers, is used to operate the lift. The broken anchor caused the cable to hang down and interfere with the passing chairs.

RMR Director of Mountain Operations Steve Parsons told the Times Review that a technician was soon dispatched to the spot in an attempt to fix the problem. A temporary fix was made, and the chair moved briefly. Parsons said the repair was deemed unsatisfactory and the decision was made to evacuate the stranded riders at 3:40 p.m.

Once the rescue started, it took about an hour to evacuate all 35 people. Parsons said there were no injuries in the operation.

Nelson resident Matt Sumner was halfway up the lift when it stopped. He told the Times Review he waited for about an hour from the time the lift stopped to when rescuers reached him. Sumner said rescuers were well-coordinated and moved quickly. “They had a good system in place,” he said.

Pairs of patrollers climbed the lift towers. They hung a purpose-built chair onto the lift cable with ropes. They went from chair to chair, belaying people down one at a time. Sumner witnessed several teams of rescuers working the along the lift line.

He said the spot where his chair stopped was sheltered by trees, but others weren’t as lucky. “I can’t imagine the people that were up there in that last section. It was windy up there,” Sumner said.

Also stranded on a chair were Sydney, Australia residents Hamish and Lauren Kennedy, who came to ski in Revelstoke as part of their honeymoon. A patroller first skied below them and told them what was happening. Rescuers came sometime later. The pair had rosy noses and cheeks from their over hour-long stay atop the lift, but were otherwise fine. They were also happy with the efforts of their rescuers. “They were really fantastic,” Lauren said. “The ski patrol was great.”

Correction

An earlier version of this story stated that the communications cable had been cut. In fact, the communications cable anchor failed on one tower, causing the wire to hang down and interfere with the passing chairs.