The Sugarloaf ski area is spending $800,000 to replace a chairlift that moved backward last winter, injuring seven skiers, resort officials announced Thursday.
Investigators say a gear box failure allowed the King Pine lift to move in reverse last March and it failed to stop immediately because of a design flaw.
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Sugarloaf says the new Doppelmayr lift will feature a redesigned gear box and the latest anti-rollback technology. Sugarloaf General Manager Karl Strand said that the existing towers and chairs from the old lift will be utilized "but King Pine will, in essence, be a completely new lift."
Sugarloaf, which is in Carrabassett Valley, a small town that's also home to a skiing and snowboarding academy, is spending another $500,000 to upgrade six other lifts. That'll include upgraded brakes and anti-rollback technology on five of them: Timberline, West Mountain, Skidway, Sawduster and Snubber.
In 2010, Sugarloaf had another chairlift accident in which five chairs tumbled 30 feet. Several people who were injured reached out-of-court settlements, and that chairlift, called East Spillway, also was replaced.
Sugarloaf will soon launch a new website devoted exclusively to the topics of chairlift safety and maintenance. It will feature an email hotline so skiers can submit questions or report any lift safety concerns.
"We're strongly committed to lift safety, and part of that is being open and thorough with our communication about that topic," Strand said in a statement. "Our hope is that this website will be a conduit for that information, and provide a direct line of communication for our guests."