Published: January 5, 2005
By Cathy Carroll
Seven people fell about 10 feet from the Pine Marten chairlift at Mount Bachelor on Dec. 27 when the lift stopped abruptly because of an electrical problem, Carly Carmichael, a spokeswoman for Mount Bachelor, said Tuesday.
No one was seriously injured, but one person who fell suffered a broken thumb, she said.
The problem was one of several that plagued the lifts during the holiday break, one of the ski area's busiest times, she added. After people fell from the Pine Marten lift, staff switched its power to a slower, diesel backup system until the electrical problem was fixed.
The engine of the Skyliner Express lift failed about a week ago and has since been running on its slower backup system, a diesel engine. The electric motor is expected to be replaced and running by Thursday, Carmichael said.
On New Year's Day, staff used a rope-and-pulley system to lower 80 guests from the Rainbow Chair lift after a gearbox failed.
"(Guests) are frustrated that the lifts are running on diesel, but on the other hand, we are doing everything we can," Carmichael said.
The company flew an expert from Vancouver, B.C., to fix the engine of the Pine Marten lift Monday night, and it ran with no problems Tuesday, Carmichael said. Mount Bachelor initially flew in another expert who didn't fix it adequately, adding to the delay, she said.
"These are European companies who make these lifts," she said. "You can't go down the street and get someone to fix it. We have people who are trained on the mountain to do repairs, but every now and then (repairs require an expert)."
The shipment of a new engine for the Skyliner lift was delayed.
The ski area ordered a new engine, but it received a used one at first and it didn't work, she said.
Carmichael said she did not know whether people who fell from the Pine Marten lift had the safety bars down when they fell. It is possible they had lifted the bars to exit the chair because they fell close to the top of the lift, she said.
People rarely fall from the lifts, she said.
Carmichael said spending has not been cut at Mount Bachelor, whose parent company is Powdr Corp. of Park City, Utah.
"We have a lift maintenance staff working full time, year-round," she said. "They check lifts daily before we open and during the day and after we close. It's a 24-hour city up there doing grooming and maintenance, and this situation couldn't have been detected through our routine."
Mark Miller, a season-pass holder at Mount Bachelor for six years, said the ski area should report on its daily recorded snow phone line and on its Web site which lifts are operating on diesel.
"Out of respect for season-pass holders who pay $1,500 to $2,000 to ski there, they should be more forthcoming about the status of the lifts and when they expect to get them fixed," he said.
That would help guests decide whether to opt for Nordic skiing or snowshoeing, he said.
"It's a tough situation," Carmichael said. "I've been responding to e-mails and guests keep hearing that the lift will be fixed tomorrow."
When repairs don't happen as planned, however, that creates frustration, she said.
Cathy Carroll can be reached at 541-383-0304 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.