Teen Stranded on Lift, Family Sues

The family of a teenager who was stranded on a chairlift after it closed last February at Sugar Mountain, NC, is suing the resort for $75,000.

The teenager suffered frostbite from being on the chair for “several hours” in single-digit wind chills, and broke several bones after deciding his best option was to drop 30 feet to the ground and seek help himself. The fall knocked him unconscious, and after waking up he crawled several hundred yards to a terrain park that was open for night skiing, where other guests found him and called ski patrol.

According to the lawsuit, the Tennessee family contends workers at the resort “were dismissive” when the youth’s mother reported him missing. Instead of immediately launching a rescue effort, staff speculated he “probably wandered off the ski slope or trails,” according to the suit.

Resort president Gunther Jochl refutes that claim. “We immediately went searching for him,” Jochl said. “We conducted a search and were within minutes of locating him when he decided to jump.”

Jochl took control of Sugar Mountain in 1976 with partner Dale Stancill. Jockl commented on the state of affairs at that time in Capital Play, “It was a disaster,” he says. “The original developers didn’t know how to run it. They had three chair lifts, and they would just stop. Mystery stops. No one knew why. They’d have people sitting in the chair half-way up the mountain and the lift would stop. Once we took over there were no more mystery stops.” The engineer grins. “When I came here there was very little of anything. They didn’t know how to groom the slopes. They didn’t know how to operate the lifts. It was a disaster.”

The lawsuit claims resort staff were negligent in failing to check the lift for any riders before shutting it down that afternoon.