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Riders rescued after ice shuts down Big White chair lift

‘We had a major lift closure on the Powder Chair due to ice falling on two safety pins simultaneously’
(Photo/Big White Ski Resort)

Big White Ski Resort dealt with a major lift closure on Dec. 27, one of its busiest days of the year.

In a Facebook post, Senior Vice President Michal J. Ballingall said the Powder Chair had to be shut down due to rime ice (blue ice) encasing chairlifts, haul cables, and running wheels.

“We had a major lift closure on the Powder Chair due to ice falling on two safety pins simultaneously,” he said. “This safety system is on our newest chair and is state-of-the-art. We haven’t experienced it before, although we have trained for it.”

The shutdown occurred while there were riders on the lift and Ballingnall said the only way the skiers could be evacuated off the chair was to run a backup diesel engine, which took just more than 56 minutes. He added that de-icing is a manual procedure that takes significant experience and safety protocols.

“It is impossible to run the lift with passengers in conditions that we deem to be unsafe. We can assure you we make these decisions with safety as our number one priority.”

Protocols were put in place as soon as possible by mountain operations and ski patrol to limit the number of skiers and snowboarders accessing that area.

“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to catch everyone in a timely fashion, and numerous guests arrived at the bottom of the lift, which resulted in them having to be turned around and routed through various out trails,” said Ballingall.

The weather, with temperatures going from -30 C to 3 C over 48 hours, has been challenging for the resort’s outdoor operations team.

“Our team works diligently every day to ensure your safety on the mountain, all while navigating the challenging weather we’ve been experiencing,” added Ballingall. “We appreciate your cooperation, patience, and understanding during these types of weather and operational challenges. We take accountability for the situation, and are reviewing on-resort protocols with our teams and lift manufacturers to ensure that if any situational improvements can be made then solutions will be put in place immediately.”

The Powder Chair has now reopened.

More information on mountain safety protocols is available on the Big White Resort website.


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Gary Barnes

About the Author: Gary Barnes

Recently joined Kelowna Capital News and WestK News as a multimedia journalist in January 2022. With almost 30 years of experience in news reporting and radio broadcasting...
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