Stowe Chairlift Evacuated — Right Way and Wrong Way

Sunday, January 27 started out with sunny skies and… wind. And lots of wind. The National Weather Service was reporting gusts to 50 mph at the summit of Mt. Mansfield. After gusts began pummeling the FourRunner Quad, Stowe Mountain Resort shut that down. The gondola was also closed for the day. Which left the Triple and Double Chairs running… albeit slowly.

Passengers on the double were bracing for slowdowns and frequent stops. But around 10:25, the lift stopped and didn’t start again. Longtime Stowe skier Jeff Filipov describes what happened next.

“My friend Greg and I got on the double because everything else was on wind hold. The Triple was the only other choice. It sputtered along for us until we got near the lift tower and just over the flat Crossover trail.

After maybe 25 mins we saw people higher up and over powder starting to jump. We did not consider it. My friend had a knee replacement and I am 54 and run a woodworking business where I need to be on my feet for delivery and installation. It is not the safest move anyway especially over a busy trail crossing that is flat. Our chair was higher up because we were over the wheels at the tower.” Nearly 160 people were on the chairs and needed to be evacuated.
Filipov and his chairmate stayed put. “It was snowing but not so cold. We had boot warmers too. A guy in the chair in front of us lowered himself to hang from foot bar and jumped with ease. His chair mate stayed.” Many of the chairs were no more than 15 feet off the ground thanks to the immense snowpack.
However, Stowe’s resort personnel and ski patrol acted quickly.  “We seem to have been among the earliest to be offloaded,” says Filipov who took these videos of people both jumping and rappelling off the lift. ” Ski patrol and all Stowe personnel were great,” he said. “They were calm, fun, professional, easy to understand, and just plain experts. Stowe has always been good with this and I have nothing but good things to say about how safety-conscious Vail Resorts is now that they run things here. We listened to them. They showed us how to get the ropes set up and at about 90 mins we were lowered.”

According to Stowe’s Jeff Wise, the lift stopped due to an interruption in the electrical system. :We expect the lift to be fully repaired, inspected and ready to operate for the upcoming weekend,” said Wise, noting that they began evacuation at 10:45 and aAll guests were safely evacuated by approximately 1pm. ” Stowe Mountain Resort sincerely apologizes form any inconvenience caused to our guests,” he said. “The safety of our guests and employees is our top number one priority. This is the first time year in nearly a decade that we have had to perform a lift evacuation in Stowe and while we hold ourselves to the highest standard of ongoing maintenance and inspections on all of our lifts, sometimes an evacuation is necessary. We have a rigorous annual training program for our Ski Patrol team to be prepared for such an event to ensure the safety of all involved.”  Stowe also gave lift ticket vouchers to many of the evacuees.

Updated: 1/27/19 at 4:14

Lisa Lynn

Editor of VT SKI + RIDE and Vermont Sports.