Chairlift failure generates inspections

Following a chairlift failure at Timberline Resort, West Virginia, on Saturday, Feb. 20, caused by an entire cross arm sheave train assembly detaching from the top of a lift tower and falling to the ground, resorts nationwide have been inspecting other lifts of similar vintage and design and built by the same manufacturer.

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Inspectors in various states quickly identified any Borvig lifts similar to that at Timberline that were installed in the 1980s, and performed inspections supplemental to those already required. As a result, last Sunday, inspectors found cracks near the cross arms on two lift towers at Vermont’s Suicide Six Ski Area. The area suspended skiing operations until repairs could be made and testing done and plans to reopen February 27th. This is not the first incident with Borvig chairlifts and there are 176 Borvig lifts remaining in operation in 26 states and three Canadian provinces.

On Tuesday, Sugarloaf, Maine, said it put its Snubber lift on mechanical hold so the resort’s lift mechanics could “thoroughly inspect every tower” of the Borvig-manufactured chairlift to “ensure there was no threat of a similar accident occurring here,” referring to the Timberline event. Sugarloaf indicated that the Snubber’s lift towers had been reinforced at the intersection of the cross arms and towers shortly after the lift was installed in 1985. The inspection was successful and the lift reopened on the same day.

At Timberline, the resort has invited industry experts to investigate the failure and help restore the lift to safe operation. According to a report at, a variety of companies that specialize in different aspects of lift operation, testing, and construction have been on-hand.

Aerial NDT Inspection, Inc. was on site to perform nondestructive testing of all existing lift towers and welds. The New Hampshire-based company specializes in the inspection of aerial ropeways.

Ropeway Construction works to re-install a crossarm on Timberline’s Thunderstruck lift
Ropeway Construction works to re-install a crossarm on Timberline’s Thunderstruck lift

Partek Enterprises, Inc., which took over technical support and parts fulfillment for Borvig chairlifts after Borvig went out of business in 1993, is working jointly with Beitzel Corporation, an industrial construction and maintenance company, to assess and repair the chairlift. Ropeway Construction is installing a new cross arm and also performing a complete haul rope inspection following the installation of the new cross arm.

In a release from the resort, Timberline stated, “We are requesting that these same experts do a thorough inspection of our other lifts as well, even though they are performing properly.”

A Timberline spokesman said that the new cross arm has been welded into place on the Thunderstruck lift, and that other cross arms on the lift have been reinforced according to the engineers’ recommendations. Timberline hopes to have the lift back in service on Feb. 27.