NEWRY — Nearly 250 people were evacuated from a ski lift at Sunday River Resort on Thursday morning after a lift operator spotted a mechanical issue and shut down the lift. 

People are evacuated from the Aurora Quad ski lift Thursday morning at Sunday River Resort in Newry. Emily Davis photo

No injuries were reported as the Mountain Operations Team conducted a rope evacuation at about 11:15 a.m. 

Some skiers reported being rescued from the Aurora lift within 20 minutes. Others were in their chairs for nearly two hours. Most expressed appreciation for the work of the rescuers. 

“Patrol did a great job,” said one man, who had been stranded on the lift with his daughter. 

The issue with the Aurora lift was reported just after 11 a.m. and operation was paused at once, according to Ellen Wainwright, communications manager at Sunday River. 

“The Mountain Operations team immediately implemented the resort’s established safety protocols,” Wainwright said. “At 11:18 a.m. Sunday River Patrol, with lift operators and Mountain Hosts, started a rope evacuation of guests from the chairlift.” 


The lift has an uphill capacity of 284, according to Wainwright. At the time of the mechanical issue, the lift was 85% loaded, meaning roughly 241 skiers were aboard. 

By 1:46 p.m., Wainwright said, all guests had been safely evacuated from the chairlift “and a supplemental inspection of all operations and procedures was completed.” 

Prior to opening at 8 a.m. on Thursday, the Aurora lift had undergone a “comprehensive daily inspection,” Wainwright said, “and successfully passed all qualifying checks.” 

What went wrong? Some skiers who were at the scene suggested that a cable slipped off the rollers near the bottom of the lift. However, resort officials were still investigating later in the day. 

The Aurora chairlift will remain on hold as lift mechanics inspect its mechanical issue, Wainwright said. The lift will be cleared to resume operation as soon as it passes all safety protocols. 

Sunday River has 19 lifts capable of transporting 32,900 skiers up the mountain per hour. 

In a rope evacuation, a trained member of ski patrol climbs a lift tower and hangs a line across the haul rope. 

The rope is brought to the chair and a seat and rope sling are raised up to that chair. 

The guest then wiggles onto the seat and puts the rope sling under his or her armpits. The guest is then lowered to the ground using a lowering, belay device. 

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