Recently, an accident occurred on the Willow Creek chair lift at Red Lodge Mountain when a chair detached from the haul rope.

At the time of the accident, the chair, which had two teenage passengers, was halfway through the ride to the top and approximately 35 feet above the ground. The two teens were immediately transported to Beartooth Billings Clinic in Red Lodge for immediate medical attention. The lift remained in operation until all other riders could be evacuated following the accident, after which, the lift was shut down to prevent any further personal injury.

At the time this story made headlines, the cause of the chair detachment was unknown. According to Jeff Carroll, the mountain’s director of sales and marketing, neither the chair nor the chairlift broke. The chair attaches by a grip intertwined into the steel cable that holds all of the chairs to the lift itself. Carroll also stated he does not believe that the high winds that caused another chairlift closure that day contributed to the accident.

The chairlift, which was installed in 1968, should remain closed until a thorough review of the incident has taken place and a professional engineer clears it for operation.

The resort has seen a near-record number of skiers over the recent holiday season because it was one the few resorts in the Rockies to have received plenty of snow, whereas other resorts are having a much slower ski season due to a lack of snow.

Since 2007, when JMA Ventures purchased Red Lodge Mountain, the company says it has invested thousands of dollars upgrading the resort and its facilities following a string of lift closures on its first day of ownership. As part of that initiative to upgrade the facilities the lifts go through routine maintenance and safety inspection.

Despite ongoing safety checks, the teenagers will likely seek an independent review to assess their injuries and the ski lodge’s potential liability.

Source: Billings Gazette, “Double chair fall of lift at Red Lodge Mountain, injuring 2,” Brett French, Dec. 28, 2011