The Quebec Building Authority (RBQ) found that Mont-Sainte-Anne (MSA) did not follow proper operating procedures during morning start-up of its gondola on Dec. 10, resulting in an unoccupied cabin detaching from the haul rope and falling to the ground, according to a Dec. 16 report.
The resort has been closed since, and the RBQ is not allowing it to operate the gondola and four other chairlifts until they’ve been fully inspected and signed off on by an engineer, among other actions. The incident was the latest of several lift incidents in recent years at Mont-Sainte-Anne.
The RBQ noted it has issued more than 25 correction notices to Mont-Saint-Anne since 2015. That year, an unnecessary rope evacuation occurred on the Express du Nord due to personnel having insufficient training. Also in 2015, a ski instructor and child jumped from the Express du Sud as their chair, stuck on a tower, was hit by other chairs. The lift continued moving despite the derailment and sustained significant damage. That mishap was blamed on “lack of maintenance.” Six days later, the same lift was rope evacuated due to motor and gearbox failures.
A pair of 2020 incidents on the gondola were both sudden stops that led to guest injuries, some requiring hospitalization. The RBQ noted that “shortcomings with regard to maintenance” were found and it took more than a year for the lift to be repaired (perhaps in part due to Covid). In addition to $1.5 million in upgrades, approximately half of the cabins on the gondola were decommissioned.
In a press release, the RBQ said operators were alerted of a malfunction in the attachment of the cabin during morning startup. The operating manual for the gondola says, in part, when this particular fault comes up to run the lift slowly in reverse and then run it forward through the tower switch again. If the same fault appears, remove the cabin from the line immediately.
However, after the fault was detected, “the mechanic dispatched to the scene carried out a simple visual inspection and authorized the restart of the lift,” the report said. The cabin tripped the same faults over the next two towers before it fell to the ground. No one was hurt in the incident. Employees were on the line and had to be evacuated.
For the gondola, the RBQ is requiring MSA “to obtain an expert’s report aimed at explaining the malfunction of the equipment and to apply the recommendations of this report, in addition to obtaining a security certificate signed by an engineer,” the order said.
For the three other detachable chairlifts, “the RBQ orders, among other things, to carry out the verification of the moving parts on all the grips and to obtain a safety certificate signed by an engineer.” Mont-Sainte-Anne must also submit a training plan to ensure that personnel know, understand, and properly apply operating procedures.
In response, MSA said, “We make every effort to implement the requested requirements and honor the trust of our customers. A review of procedures and training was already scheduled this weekend and additional inspections were also planned for the resumption of operations. Awaiting the final findings of the investigations, we are working on a safe plan to revive activities.”
While the affected lifts aren’t the only lifts at MSA, the others that access upper mountain terrain aren’t easily accessible without the affected lifts operating. No timetable has been set for reopening.
As the investigation continues into the Mont-Sainte-Anne gondola incident and the mountain remains closed, Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR) is seeking a public-private partnership to renew its Quebec infrastructure. Quebec’s Premier isn’t sold on giving public money to RCR. The Quebec Government in currently in legal proceedings with Mont-Sainte-Anne. The Groupe Le Massif has recently attempted to acquire Mont-Sainte-Anne in order to offer an improved four-season Quebec product for the North American market.
The people and Government of Quebec are unhappy with RCR’s management and operation of Mont-Sainte-Anne. The outcome will unfold in coming months and unfortunately those who suffer will be the pass-holders, the town of Beaupré, and the small businesses surrounding the Resort.
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Source: SAM, liftblogs.com