December 12, 2018 / Comments (364)

Meadows evacuates 150 people from Old Blue after ice wreaks havoc

Mt. Hood Meadows had to evacuate 150 skiers and snowboarders from its Blue Chair today after a serious ice and snow storm upended lift operations.

The problems started when lift crews were unable to de-ice the Mt. Hood Express at the base of the resort in time for the morning powder rush. Some serious freezing rain had accumulated before turning to snow, and the lift cables were solid ice.

With the main base chair lift non-functional, impatient powderhounds eager to shred 10 inches of fresh snow were redirected over to the much slower and older Blue Chair. Unfortunately Blue stopped functioning with 150 riders on board after the auxiliary power source failed.

Riders were stranded on the lift for two hours or more before being belayed down to safety by ski patrol.

It was a long wait in the cold for the riders, but fortunately no one was injured. The Blue Chair does not have safety bars.

“All right, my toe has been frozen for an hour now.”

Season pass holder Adam Ski (who is actually a snowboarder despite his surname) says he and his friend were fairly lucky to be sheltered from the wind near tower number 8. “I feel bad for the people who were up near the top. That wind must have sucked up there.”

Ski says he took the first 20 minutes or so in stride: “We’ve been here before, stuck on the lift. But then an hour goes by and you start getting cold. And then it’s an hour and a half, and you’re like, ‘All right, my toe has been frozen for an hour now, and my ankle is killing me from holding the weight of my board for all this time.’

“The worst thing was, while all this was happening, nothing was running, and it’s a beautiful powder day. People were getting pissed.”

Ski was impressed with the patroller pros who rescued the stranded riders. The patrollers threw a line over the lift cable, then rigged up a wooden seat with a harness for the rider to sit in for the belay. “These guys know what they’re doing,” says Ski.

In the end, Ski and the other rescued riders got some free hot drinks for the inconvenience. More importantly, they did get to enjoy some powder when the Mt. Hood Express chair finally opened that afternoon.

“Nobody had been up all day, so it was sick,” says Ski. “I got some great lines. But it was definitely a rough day.”

In a web post, Mt. Hood Meadows attributed the operational problems to the severity of the early season storm:

At 8:55 we were prepared with Easy Rider, Buttercup and the Ballroom Carpet ready to launch. Teams were still deicing Mt. Hood Express and Blue was launched as an alternative. 

Fluctuating power contributed to the morning’s problems – and Blue was placed on standby with a lift evacuation initiated. That’s a process of belaying passengers down from their chairs with a harness, with teams directed by our ski patrol and mountain teams. Over 150 passengers (a nearly full chairlift) were safely and successfully evacuated from Blue, taking two hours and twenty minutes from the time the lift was stopped until the last passenger was evacuated. The Easy Rider chairlift was also affected by the power fluctuations and was placed on standby (without requiring evacuation,) but was returned to service this morning.

 Meadows later managed to de-ice the Shooting Star lift as well, and a few lucky skiers and snowboarders were able to snag first tracks at 2 pm.

Last modified: December 12, 2018

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