January 4, 2011

Sugarloaf plans to repair troubled chair lift

The Associated Press

CARRABASSETT VALLEY — The 35-year-old Sugarloaf ski lift that derailed and fell to the ground last week, injuring eight people, remains shut down, but the resort hopes to get it up and running this season, a spokesman said today.

There's no specific timetable for restoring service on the East Spillway chair lift, one of four lifts used to take skiers to the mountain's higher elevation. But replacement parts have been ordered in anticipation of repairs and the goal is to restart the lift this winter, spokesman Ethan Austin said.

East Spillway was damaged when a cable left its track, causing five chairs to plunge 25 to 30 feet to a ski trail below. Eight skiers were taken to hospitals on Dec. 28. All have since been released.

Sugarloaf said last week that a misaligned cable was to blame and that winds gusting up to 50 mph were a contributing factor in the accident. Workers tried unsuccessfully to make adjustments to the cable and were attempting to restart the lift at a slow speed to offload skiers when the cable jumped its track, the resort said.

The ski resort had planned to replace the East Spillway lift, possibly as early as this summer. But Austin said today that he couldn't comment on a timetable for building a replacement.

The Maine Board of Elevator and Tramway Safety, which is conducting an investigation into the accident, would have to sign off on any repairs to the existing lift, Austin said.

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