One skier was thrown to the ground and 22 others were evacuated. Operators had planned to shut down the lift the next day to replace the two bull wheel bearings, which had started to squeak.
Sunapee's Jay Gamble said he was advised of the problem on Dec. 23 – a Sunday – and next day, Monday, Dec 24, they ordered replacement bearings from California and Massachusetts and seals from Utah. Sunapee planned to shut down the lift for the repairs on Dec. 26 and Dec. 27, as soon as the parts were delivered.
In consultation with the state on Dec 24, operators planned to continue running the lift on Dec 25, while monitoring the bearing noise and, if it worsened, shut the lift down immediately.
Loading was stopped when the noise got louder on Dec. 25, but before the skiers and riders on the lift could all be offloaded, the bearing failed and the bull wheel pulled out of its housing. The haul rope "deroped" from the bull wheel, there was a surge, and one skier was thrown from the chair, Sunapee managers reported.
"This has been a devastating experience for us," Gamble said, "We are grateful that no one was seriously injured."
Ten similar lifts operate at other ski resorts in New Hampshire.