140 Passengers Safely Evacuated from Whitefish Mountain Resort’s Chair 5

A problem with the chairlift's bullwheel liner required maintenance shortly after noon

By Tristan Scott
Crews at Whitefish Mountain Resort install Chair 5 in East Rim on Sept. 24, 2017. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

A mechanical error on Whitefish Mountain Resort’s Chair 5 lift prompted the evacuation of approximately 140 passengers Saturday afternoon, with everyone lowered to safety and no injuries reported.

According to a statement from the resort on Big Mountain, a problem with the chairlift’s bullwheel liner required maintenance shortly after noon, and due to the projected time it would take crews to fix the mechanical issue, ski patrol decided to evacuate passengers, lining some down precipitous terrain with cables and harnesses.

Whitefish Mountain Resort’s full statement:

At approximately 12:15 p.m., the East Rim/Chair 5 lift at Whitefish Mountain Resort was stopped due to an issue will the chairlift’s bullwheel liner. Lift Maintenance teams responded immediately to repair the lift and get the passengers unloaded. Ski Patrol also responded immediately to communicate to passengers and get in position for a possible lift evacuation. Because the repair was not expected to be timely and for the comfort and safety of our guests we decided to evacuate the lift. There were approximately 140 passengers on the lift at the time. Ski patrol teams began the process of getting the passengers safely to the ground at approximately 1:00 p.m.  We were in constant communication with the passengers and kept them informed on the issues and evacuation process. We brought hand warmers, blankets and warm drinks. At the time of the incident, temperatures were in the high teens winds were at 10 miles per hour with occasional gusts. The last passenger was evacuated at 3:37 p.m. and there were no injuries.

Chair 5, popularly referred to as the East Rim chairlift, was installed in 2017 and tracks up the steep cliff bands of a feature bearing the same name. The lift was moved from its old location in Ptarmigan Bowl.