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Summit chairlifts at Owl's Head


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On Monday, Jan 15th, a major power outage caused electrical damage to the main summit detachable quad chairlift at Owl's Head. Replacement parts and repairs are currently still in progress but no return to service date has been given.

Since Thursday until today, the old Green Chair (Heron) double chairlift was opened up restoring access to the summit.

Today (Saturday, Jan 20th) an incident occurred in the morning on the Green Chair, in which a chair slid down into another. The lift was evacuated and is now closed pending inspection by the Quebec government.

www.facebook.com/owlsheadresort/posts/10155616691922639

The Green chair is now taking out of service, and summit access is again no longer possible.

While lift incidents seem to be more commonly published in the news recently (Sugarloaf as an example), how do you feel about lift security? Are the mountains and regulatory bodies doing enough to ensure reliable lift operations? With aging lifts in Quebec, the fear is reliability could become a large issue.

I do hope everything gets sorted out in quick order at Owl's Head as these incidents do affect visitor flow and perception of a mountain and can affect revenue.

I sincerely hope that the event today does not tarnish the amazing experience we all enjoy when visiting Owl's Head.

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Well I'm in shock that something happened on the Green. Not good at all. Especially after they made a somewhat big deal on Facebook of being able to ride the Green Chair on Saturday, just an unfortunate turn of events. After a quick look, it doesn't appear like the media have picked up on it, which is good.

Those two lifts, especially the quad are critical at Owl's Head. People go to ski off the summit and down to the lake. While the Black and Lake chairs have nice trials, the big attraction is starting from the summit. I really love Owl's Head and I've always come away with a great experience. Lilly's Leap is one of my favorite trails anywhere.

I really hope they get the quad running again very soon. I was to go this past Wednesday but saw the news in time before arriving and switched to Orford.

They for sure need to get it running or it will end up cutting into business.

To answer your question Robert, I don't have concerns about lift safety, but yes the lifts all over are getting older and incidents could start becoming more common if high maintenance or entire replacements do not occur. Business and the bottom line is tight for alot of these operations, especially for the smaller ones. So putting in a new lift at $1-2 million just for a fixed-grip is often not an option, and they have to make do the best they can with what they got. 

I'm just thinking back to the announcements the Quebec government made in the Townships a month ago, to Bromont, Orford and Sutton.... nothing to Owl's Head. Could've helped.

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I am not sure what to say about the incident yesterday but unfortunately I have to say I am not overly surprised that something did happen to the Green Chair. It had been sitting idle for a few years not running, and then you press it into full time service because of the Main Quad issues. I used to run the Main Quad at the top years ago and rarely then was the Green running, except for overly busy weekends and school holidays but it was mainly a backup lift should something happen to the Quad. 

After building up the fact that they were opening the Green, and this happens, it is not good for OH one bit on the publicity they had been getting lately for not running it in place of the Quad. I haven't heard in the local area news yet about what happened, but their Facebook page has comments. 

I don't know what their lift maintenance schedule is anymore but I hope they didn't just do a quick checkover before spinning her. I remember working on the lifts in the late summer early fall in one capacity or another. I just hope after this announced inspection that this is not the last time the Green will spin again. 

We all know that the lift infrastructure in Quebec is aging rapidly, but at the same time how can they afford to spend millions of dollars every season replacing old lifts with new ones without some form of assistance from the Government for tourism? There are 3 lifts at OH that would benefit from being replaced with new ones. It would take a boat load of money to do it. Then there are others that would benefit from a full refurbish to extend their usefulness. 

After hearing about the Borvig lift issues from the last couple of years with the collapse of the  top station on the Spruce Peak triple at Sunday River to the tower head collapse from another area that I forget at which US ski area, to the issues at Suicide Six in Vermont of their Borvig double showing signs of weakness issues in the metal, and the roll back accident on the King Pine Borvig quad at Sugarloaf Maine,  I think about it more when I ride an older Borvig lift. I am more aware of it over older Dopplemayr, Mueller, and CTEC lifts the I have ridden, but anything could happen to any lift manufacturer. 

I don't have any concerns about lift safety in Quebec but the thought does enter your mind after hearing about something like this. 

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Well the news of this accident on the Green Chair at Owl's Head is out! Carnet du Ski has picked up on the story and there are photos included in their report.

http://www.carnetduski.com/nouvelle.php?N=4009

This certainly is not good for OH and the publicity that they were getting for the Quad being down due to a major situation. I had seen some comments on Facebook about this. I will let you read this and their FB page and see what you think about what went down. 

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43 minutes ago, Robert said:

Paul, you beat me to the punch, I was just about to post the same link. Not good news indeed.

Sorry for stealing your thunder Robert. I had been looking around to see if any media had picked up on the story. Slow lazy day after a day of skiing yesterday. Will this deter me from going back to OH? No, but until the problems on the Quad are completed and fixed, I will wait and sit this one out. 

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I think what's important to think about is that what happened on the Green Chair was a grip slipped on the cable. While the lift itself is old, it was one component that was at fault in this incident. Same for other locations, like Sugarloaf and elsewhere in similar incidents. It's not that the whole lift in its entirety is faulty or dangerous, but one component.

We could have a new lift installed and the grip for one chair could happen to be faulty or not tightly fastened to its position on the cable. I would think it's less likely with a new lift than an older one but this sort of thing could potentially happen on any lift. Maintenance and inspections are key and essential to prevent this sort of thing from happening. 

Despite saying that, any accident or incident should not happen. We are only human and so these things do happen.

The past 2 years have shown that these things do happen, and at a higher frequency with aging lifts as that's where the problems have been occurring.

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I will definitely return too. I agree, for me not completely worth the trip without the summit. The bottom half is great skiing and you still get the view from the Lake quad but still, you go for the whole experience, not 50% of the mountain. Hope they get this sorted out quickly.

Can't believe they don't have a communications department anymore. I remember videos and photos signed by a Luc Skypowder on the Owl's Head facebook page. He represented the mountain well I thought. They're probably missing him now with these ongoing issues...

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I agree that it's one component that failed, but with older lifts like these, it can lead to other deficiencies being discovered. Taking into consideration the age of the Green Chair, and not being a new lift when it was installed at OH in the late 70's, any new failures or deficiencies found on the lift with the inspection could lead to permanently closing and scrapping the lift. I certainly hope not as this lift serves as a back up to the Quad. Unfortunately there is no going to the "farm team" to call up another lift to replace your starter and back up when they are both injured. It will be interesting to see what happens during the off season and what they do.

My understanding was that this occurred on the steepest pitch which would put this around the "Wall" on the upper Colorado. I have ridden this lift and it is high and very steep there.

I am very happy that no one was seriously injured.

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I don't the average age but I know it's up there. Here are some examples of what I do know and when the last brand new chairlift was installed.

Owl's Head: Oldest active lift - the Panorama Double chair, the original Mueller double that was transferred to its current spot from the main mountain when the quad was installed new in 1986-87. The Panorama chair has been around since 1965 when the mountain opened.

Orford: Oldest active lift - the Alfred Desrochers double, not sure when installed but I think it was very late 1960's very early 1970's. Newest lift, the Hybride installed early 2000's.

Sutton: oldest active chairlift: all the Mueller doubles, the oldest of all is the original double where the #2 Quad was. I don't know where it is now, but I know Chair 5 was the original double chair that was the main lift at the defunct Mont Echo that they had installed in 1963, transferred from Echo to Sutton in 1979 or so. Newest is I think chair 7 in the late 1980's.

Just a few examples that I know of. There is a neat website, http://www.skilifts.org/old/install_na.htm that shows all installation of chairlifts from 1963 onward to 2009 in North America. You might find some familiar lifts here and when they were put in. 

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News on the situation. According to Owl’s Head Facebook page the Main Quad should be ready for the weekend. They posted Saturday as the day it should be back up and running. Certainly some good news for them with the rash of bad luck they had been having lately.

News on the Green chair is that the grip and chair involved in the incident on the weekend has been removed and is being inspected for the cause of the failure. The lift itself is under full inspection by the OH ops team under supervision of provincial inspectors, and is apparently supposed to be ready February 2nd. 

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It’s simple to ensure safety , Do like in Alberta ,government lift inspection is done every year prior to loading any public passengers ? To ensure public safety, In Quebec it is not done by government annually prior to opening ?regardless of the age of the lift , old lifts can be safe if properly maintained , also all lifts need to meet CSA Z98 regulation, 

Pat

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