Tussey Mountain releases update on ski lift malfunction

Tussey Mountain ski lift malfunctions

About 50 people were evacuated from the ski lift at Tussey Mountain after it malfunctioned Saturday. There were several minor injuries.
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About 50 people were evacuated from the ski lift at Tussey Mountain after it malfunctioned Saturday. There were several minor injuries.

Tussey Mountain on Tuesday released an update about the ski lift malfunction that occurred Saturday morning and left dozens stranded on the lift for more than two hours.

A chair on the lift slid backward on the haul rope into the one behind it, causing a domino effect that resulted in four slipped chairs.

According to the press release from Tussey, the ski resort immediately alerted the state Department of Labor and Industry’s Bureau of Occupational and Industrial Safety Elevator Division about the incident and agency employees were on-site Saturday and Sunday.

“As part of this investigation, chairs were removed and studied and grips were transported to be examined by a third-party 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.

Once the upgrade is complete, Department of Labor and Industry investigators will return to Tussey and inspect the equipment before the ski resort reopens.

The release said that Tussey’s equipment passed inspections for the testing of haul rope and chair lift grips in October. Load testing was completed in August. These tests led to the official state inspection, completed Nov. 14.

Multiple fire companies, ambulance services and police were called to the scene on Saturday.

There were at least five people injured.

“Since this incident, Tussey Mountain has first and foremost been in contact with the individuals who were impacted by this event. We are grateful to learn of the progress being made with their recoveries,” the release said.

It took ski patrol and emergency officials about two hours to evacuate dozens of people who were stranded on the lift.

“They placed their first priority on the people at the top that were injured, and they tried to get them down,” State College police Lt. Bradley Smail said Saturday.

The injured were brought down the mountain on sleds, while others were able to ski or snowboard to the bottom.

To evacuate people from the lift, ski patrol throws a rope up over the cable and put a loop around the person to lower them down, Dave Guss, who’s been on ski patrol for 30 years, told the CDT Saturday.

It’s a “high-angle rescue,” he said, and it’s sort of a rock climbing technique.

“We wish to thank the first responders who quickly arrived to the scene and assisted our National Ski Patrollers in evacuating the lift and attending to any injured individuals. We look forward to continuing our mission of providing safe, fun outdoor activities and events to our neighbors and guests,” the release from Tussey said.

Pending completion of investigations, Tussey aims to reopen on Dec. 23.

Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619, @SarahRafacz