Over 100 skiers, snowboarders forced to rappel down Alberta ski lift

WATCH ABOVE: A snowboarder at Banff Sunshine Village ski resort had to rappel down a broken chairlift Sunday.

With a snowboard attached to one foot, and the other dangling mid-air, a snowboarder in Banff, Alta. was forced to rappel down from a broken chairlift Sunday in a video captured by Calgarian Ryan Corry.

He was one of about 110 skiers and snowboarders on the Sunshine Village ski resort lift who were forced to make a similar escape from as high as 10 metres above the snow. The evacuation started just after 1 p.m. and took just over two hours—luckily, no one was injured.

“Once we got onto the lift we immediately noticed a smell of maybe diesel – just something that wasn’t normal,” Corry told Global News.

“In the back of my mind, I kind of figured we’d be getting rappelled down, but I didn’t really want that to happen.”

The Goat’s Eye Mountain ski lift had to be evacuated Dec. 27, 2015 due to a broken chairlift. Banff Sunshine Village Facebook

Corry’s video shows his brother-in-law, Ben Kilmer, making his way off the equipment at Goat’s Eye Mountain. Corry said he and Kilmer were at the resort with five other friends and family members when he snapped the photos below and took the video.

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Corry said they thought they were stranded on the lift for over an hour and a half, but was very impressed with the ski patrol rescue.

“After 45 minutes, I think they started clearing up the lift lines down below and we thought, ‘this isn’t looking very good, we’re probably going to get rappelled down.’ And then after an hour and a half, the patrollers came down with the ropes and did their thing,” Kilmer said.

“I had mitts on, so I had to take my fingers and ball them up, and then my feet were getting a little cold, too. But I couldn’t really complain; we were stuck in the trees and the weather was great considering…I think the people that were higher than us and exposed would have been really, really cold.”

Watch below: Extended video of the Sunshine Village visitors’ escape

“There was never any danger to the public that were on the lift because the lift has redundant braking systems but it just couldn’t move forward so we had to do a little evacuation for the people on the lift,” Sunshine Village COO Dave Riley told Global News.

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READ MORE: Snowfall warning for Canmore and K-Country

Sunshine Village said on its Facebook page the ski lift was evacuated due to a failure of the main gearbox. It said maintenance crews are working on finding parts and making the necessary repairs, which is expected to take several days.

“The lift was closed yesterday because of a failure of the main gearbox,” an update posted Monday reads. “The gearbox transfers power from the electric motor to the shaft that drives the lift. Because there is only one gearbox, the lift cannot operate until the gearbox is fixed.”

The ski resort said a brand new oil pump was what caused the failure, which had been installed in the summer by manufacturer Leitner Poma as part of a $130,000 rebuild of the gearbox.

“The oil pump circulates cooled oil through the gearbox. The pump failure led to catastrophic overheating and the failure of other parts within the gearbox.”

Sunshine Village said it expects to be fully operational in the next few days, after Leitner Poma technicians arrive from Colorado with parts.

“It’s disappointing because we’re taking the necessary efforts to do the preventative maintenance, but we’re just pleased there weren’t any real problems with our guests,” Riley said. He added the people who were evacuated were given a free lift pass to Sunshine Village.

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Riley said a rope evacuation in a ski area is “very infrequent” but said his crews train throughout the winter so they can move as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Calgarian Ryan Corry was at Sunshine Village in Banff on Dec. 27 when he captured these photos of skiers escaping a broken chairlift. Ryan Corry
Calgarian Ryan Corry was at Sunshine Village in Banff on Dec. 27 when he captured these photos of skiers escaping a broken chairlift. Ryan Corry
Calgarian Ryan Corry was at Sunshine Village in Banff on Dec. 27 when he captured these photos of skiers escaping a broken chairlift. Ryan Corry

With files from Global’s Heather Yourex-West

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