CARRABASSETT VALLEY — About 200 people were evacuated from a chairlift Saturday morning at the Sugarloaf ski resort after seven people were injured, and four of them taken to the hospital, after a lift accident.

The injuries occurred about 11:30 a.m. on the King Pine Quad lift when the lift experienced a rollback, in which the chairlift travels backward, said Ethan Austin, Sugarloaf’s marketing director, while speaking at a news conference at the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel.

NorthStar Ambulance took four of the skiers to Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, according to Austin. He said the patients suffered injuries that were not believed to be life-threatening.

There were 204 people riding the lift when it stopped going forward and went backward. The lift was stopped and skiers were evacuated from it by Sugarloaf Ski Patrol.

Austin would not identify the seven skiers or specify what their injuries were. Carrabassett Valley police referred a request for more information back to Austin.

The rollback’s cause remains under investigation. Austin said he could not say what might have caused the accident.

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“Until that investigation is complete, we’re going to refrain from speculation as to the cause,” he said.

The lift rolled back a distance of nine chairs, or about 460 feet, he said.

The ski patrol responded to the accident immediately, Austin said, and first helped the injured riders. While some patrol workers were helping the injured riders, others started evacuating the skiers using a rope pull system. Richard Wilkinson, vice president of operations at Sugarloaf, said the ski patrol threw a rope over the cable, hoisted up a seat with a safety belt and then belayed each rider down.

The last passenger was back on the ground by 1:22 p.m., around two hours after the accident was reported.

The chairlift receives routine daily inspections for safety, according to Austin. Additionally, it is subject to weekly, monthly and yearly maintenance and testing. The lift is also inspected annually by the State of Board of Elevator and Tramway Safety. An inspector from the State of Maine Board of Elevator and Tramway Safety was on site Saturday afternoon at Sugarloaf to work with the resort in investigating the accident.

“Our primary concern is for a speedy recovery for those that were injured. We’re deeply sorry that this happened, and we fully intend to get to the bottom of why it did,” Austin said.

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Sugarloaf was the site of another chairlift accident in 2010 in which a 35-year-old lift derailed, injuring eight skiers. When asked at the news conference whether Sugarloaf was concerned about perceptions of safety because of the two lift accidents, Austin said one of the top priorities of the ski resort is safety.

“Safety is our absolute first concern in everything that we do. We want our guests to enjoy our mountain. We want them to be confident that we can do this safely. So reassuring that faith in us is paramount to our operation,” he said.

The lift, King Pine Quad, is a four-passenger monocable fixed-grip quad built in 1988 and manufactured by Borvig, according to Austin. It is on the east side of the mountain. King Pine is 3,400 feet long with a vertical rise of 1,074 feet. The chair moves at a speed of 450 feet per minute and the chairs are roughly 51 feet apart. There are a total of 122 chairs on the lift, which is powered by a 400-horsepower motor. It has a transportation capacity of 2,100 skiers per hour.

The King Pine lift will remain closed for now. Austin said it was not clear when it will reopen.

The accident happened just days before the U.S. Alpine Championships are scheduled to take place at the ski resort. The event is expected to draw big crowds as well as world-class skiers.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]


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