Out-of-control ski lift speeds downhill and flings skiers off their seats

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/03/16/out-of-control-ski-lift-speeds.html


Hmm…Seems to me that dropping the skis before you got to the bottom would be a good idea. It would make getting out of the way of succeeding chairs after jumping off at the bottom easier. Easier to think of that when you’re not paralyzed with panic.


the merrier go-round and round

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It looks like the people on the way down were all facing away from the disaster awaiting them at the bottom, and probably couldn’t see what was going on down there. They probably just knew they were going too fast, and then maybe hear people start yelling “jump!”?


Yeah, I figured that people at the bottom were telling people to jump.


So these things don’t have a big red emergency stop button?


Seeing those folks get thrown was parts awful and parts comedic (conditioned by cartoons… )
But it got real not-funny when you could see the wrecked chairs piling up.
Going backwards super fast like that would have me keyed up to get the hell off that thing asap.

Holy heck. Yeah, the violence of what happens when the chairs whip around the corner is a little surprising, even if you’re aware that centrifugal force exists. The real trouble seems to begin when the chairs start getting caught up on the bars near the top that are supposed to guide them smoothly around the tower.

I ski a lot, and my instinct probably would have been to keep the safety bar down, hold on tight, and ride it out, assuming that this is going to stop once the weight on either side of the lift line evens out - but clearly in this case, jumping off close to the bottom is the better move. Er… good to know?


I hope everyone is okay.

Also, hosting platforms that don’t give you controls for volume or let you see a progress bar can go fly off a ski lift.


I don’t ski, and maybe they do things differently in Georgia, but would you not usually be facing forward when using the lift. So, in the video, the left side should have been going upwards?

I ask because if anything I’m sitting in starts going backwards I’d start paying a whole lot attention. Some of those people seemed completely non-nonchalant about the whole thing, until they got forcibly evacuated.

Lastly, since I’m a terrible person… In Soviet Georgia, ski lift departs you!


From the linked telegraph article:

Skiers were being transported down a hill at the Gudauri resort, located on the plateau of The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range in the former Soviet republic, when the out of control lift suddenly began picking up speed.

I know journalism on a tight time frame is hard work, but did it occur to the reporter that it was just going backwards? No one takes a chairlift down the hill, not least on a beautiful day like that.


Presumably, they pushed the big red button. The lift stopped. Then, the brake holding it failed. With no brake stopping motion and nothing driving it forward anymore, the extra weight on the loaded side caused it to move in reverse and out of control.


Correct - left side should be going up. Actually, in the U.S. it’s usually the right side that goes up, but maybe it’s one of those things like which side of the road we drive on.

It’s actually not completely unheard of for lifts to run in reverse for short periods of time - there are often even signs up and down the lift poles that warn “Caution: Lift may run in reverse” - but this would usually be when there’s some kind of problem that requires the operators to unload everyone off of the lift (in a controlled manner, one hopes). As I noted above, my first assumption if this happened would probably not be that I was just going to get flung off like rag doll when I got to the bottom.

Still, though, yeah - you’d think you would turn around and take a gander at what on earth was going on. Especially if you start going backwards this fast.


Yes. All the extra weight would be on the side with the people going up the mountain, coming back down backwards.


They do. Actually a number of brakes and other systems that should have kicked in to stop it.

The accident is what’s called a “rollback”, where where the whole line has no brakes or control, and the weight of the people in the chairs makes them all start to go back down the hill - in a reverse direction from normal.

Imagine if you had a conveyor belt going up a slope, and suddenly the motor failed and the whole thing was just free to move the belt as it wished. The weight of objects on the belt would make the belt start to go in reverse, and dump everything off the bottom. That’s what happened here.


Shame they don’t have some safety mechanism to account for that kind of failure.



Thank you, BoingBoing, for citing the paragraph that no one was badly injured or killed in this incident. This is what I look for to assure me that scary videos such as these are safe to watch. Please keep up this policy, thanks.


Huh, Brakes.

BRILLIANT! What a great name for something that could stop an out of control lift!

It is a good idea, just very hard to accomplish when you’re sitting on a lift chair. Long story, but basically you need some weight and leverage to pop the boots out of the bindings, which you don’t have while seated, and even if you did somehow have it, you’re still at a very bad angle to even reach the damn things to begin with. Plus panic. Plus backwards.