CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Sugarloaf ski resort officials said Monday that the King Pine quad chairlift will be out of operation for the foreseeable future following the mechanical failure Saturday that led to seven injuries.

Some skiers at the resort said they still have confidence in Sugarloaf, though at least two people at the mountain Monday vowed they would never again use the aging lift unless it is replaced.

“It was installed in 1988,” Jonah Baumm, 20, of Boothbay Harbor said Monday. “That lift’s old, it’s rickety. I’m definitely concerned.”

Baumm was in line Monday to get on the Superquad chairlift with Brittney Meservier, 23, also of Boothbay Harbor. Both used the King Pine lift Friday – a day before Saturday’s accident in which seven people were injured and 204 skiers evacuated from the lift by Sugarloaf Ski Patrol. The resort said Sunday a gearbox that connects the lift’s motor to the advancing cable malfunctioned and backup brakes didn’t work.

While both Baumm and Meservier said they would not use the lift unless it is replaced, they said they are confident Sugarloaf officials were doing all they could to make sure equipment is maintained and safe for skiers.

“I think they’re doing the best they can with what they’ve got,” Baumm said. “I know they did put a ton of money into this resort.”

The accident occurred around 11:30 a.m. Saturday when the lift rolled backward after the malfunction.

Some skiers and snowboarders on the lift were injured when it struck them near the lift terminal. Others suffered injuries when they jumped some 10 feet to the ground. The more seriously injured were taken by ambulance to Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, and one was transferred to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.

Sugarloaf spokesman Ethan Austin said Monday that he could not release specifics on those injured because he is bound by confidentiality rules.

“To the best of my knowledge, two of the three treated at the hospital ended up leaving that same day and a third was transferred to Central Maine Medical Center,” Austin said Monday. “Honestly, I have no other update than that.”

Inspectors and engineers were back at the Carrabassett Valley ski mountain Monday, continuing their investigation into the mechanical failure of the gearbox and the resulting “rollback” of the chairlift. They also are exploring why the backup braking system didn’t work.

Sugarloaf officials are working with the state Board of Elevator and Tramway Safety to investigate the accident, Austin said. Outside engineers and lift maintenance teams from Sugarloaf’s parent company, Boyne Resorts, of Michigan, also will be on site to investigate the root cause of the mechanical failure, according to Austin. The lift has a redundant brake system built into it, he said.

“Fortunately, one worked, but they didn’t all work as they were supposed to,” he said.

Austin said that the testing done on the King Pine chairlift the day before Saturday’s accident was a vibration analysis designed to assess the condition of equipment without taking it apart. The test found no problems.

“It’s probably too early to say whether or not we’re going to need to change specific procedures,” Austin said. “It’s fair to say we’re examining absolutely everything that went on that day.”


Many of the skiers at Sugarloaf on Monday were taking the accident in stride.

At the base lodge, Jim Bowen, 60, of Denver, who is a volunteer on the ski patrol at Winter Park near that city, said he does not have concerns about equipment safety.

He said he believes Sugarloaf does what it is supposed to do to maintain equipment.

“It was an accident,” said Bowen. “We rode that lift earlier that day. I don’t think they want this kind of thing to happen. I’m sure they’re abiding by whatever the rules and regulations are.”

Also in the lodge, Zach Ronan of Boothbay Harbor and his cousin Rachael Dolloff of Baltimore, both 24, said they weren’t afraid to use chairlifts.

Dolloff said she had heard about Saturday’s accident and did not know a lot about it.

“I think it was a fluke,” she said of the accident. “I think it’s going to take a lot of unfortunate events to trigger something like that in the first place.

“(Sugarloaf officials have) been there for a while, and I trust they’re going to take precautions and proper safety measures to ensure our safety. We talked about the accident but it didn’t deter us from coming.”

Ronan said that while he was en route to Sugarloaf earlier Monday, the chairlift accident was on his mind.

“But as far as going up today, I’m not afraid – not at all,” he said. “I have full faith in their safety measures here. They’re a class establishment.

“Nothing would prevent me from going today. It was a freak accident. They’ve been here for years. Of course, it’s unfortunate. I hope everybody’s safe. You look at some of the other lifts in Maine, and they’re rackety and rickety. I feel safe.”

Austin said “safety is the first and foremost thing in everything we do” at Sugarloaf.

“We’re not taking this incident lightly – we’re taking it incredibly seriously,” he said. “We know people will have questions. Our first priority is investigating why this happened, as rigorously as we can, and sharing what we find with everyone.”


The King Pine chairlift, listed by the state as 27 years old, received a thorough inspection in the fall, which is required each year before getting a certificate allowing it to operate for the season, said Doug Dunbar, spokesman for the state Board of Elevator and Tramway Safety. The board regulates tramways and chairlifts in the state.

The inspection, arranged by MountainGuard Insurance Program, said the mountain had to replace the King Pine lift’s hydraulic tension pump and a communications system, both of which were done in early October. There were no identified issues with rollback brakes.

It is common for chairlifts to require maintenance and adjustment, Dunbar said. An inspection last fall of the Sugarloaf Superquad, installed in 1994, said the rollback brake was not meeting torque specifications and required adjustment.

Friday’s test was a vibration analysis, which is used in aviation and with other industrial machinery to identify potential problems without taking apart the equipment – in this case the gearbox that connects the motor to the large bullwheel that pulls the cable.

The test “didn’t detect any irregularities or cause for concern,” Austin said.

The mountain also does its own testing regimen, which includes regular and periodic safety tests, Austin said. The vibration test was one that is not done routinely.

Seven of the mountain’s 13 lifts are older than King Pine, including Bucksaw, which state records say was installed in 1969.

The loss of the King Pine lift doesn’t make any of the mountain’s terrain inaccessible, Austin said, though it does make it harder for skiers to repeat that section of mountain that the lift spans.

The loss of the lift also will have no impact on the U.S. Alpine Championships, scheduled to start Wednesday. King Pine is located on the far eastern side of the mountain and the races are being held on the black diamond trail Narrow Gauge, which is on the western third of the mountain.