Tahoe ski resort chairlift that failed, forced evacuation reopens after probe | SierraSun.com

Tahoe ski resort chairlift that failed, forced evacuation reopens after probe

Sebastian Foltz
sfoltz@tahoedailytribune.com

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit approved the reopening of Heavenly Mountain Resort's North Bowl chairlift last month after a malfunction caused its closure.

According to Forest Service's report on the incident, part of the assembly that connected the fixed-grip chair to the lift cable failed. Two screws that served as part of the connection sheared off during lift operations when the chair was between towers 4 and 5 on the downslope.

The Jan. 3 equipment failure caused the unoccupied chair to fall from the lift cable during operations, forcing the evacuation of 65 guests who were on the lift.

Heavenly's Boulder chair, which is the same make and model fixed-grip triple chair as North Bowl, was also closed as a precautionary measure. Both reopened to the public on Jan. 16, following what the Forest Service deemed as significant corrective action.

"This was a very thorough review," said Forest Service recreation special uses program manager Jonathan Cook-Fisher.

Cook-Fisher administrates Heavenly's permit to operate on Forest Service lands.

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After lift service teams from Heavenly, the Forest Service and two independent companies investigated, Heavenly replaced each of the chair connections on both lifts with a different groove pin system, which the Forest Service report described as "not as susceptible to shearing as the existing screw system."

"We couldn't determine the ultimate causation of what sheered the screws," said Cook-Fisher, explaining that none of the other chairs showed a potential for similar failure.

Both chairs will be subject to bi-monthly inspections going forward.

"We've taken every precaution to ensure the safety of our guests," Heavenly spokesman Kevin Cooper said. "We investigated it. We worked with outside agencies and the Forest Service to ensure we did it right."