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How Ski Resorts Handle Power Outages
As most of you know, we had a power outage up here over the weekend that caused us to put several lifts on hold for a couple of hours. As you can imagine, power outages happen from time to time here at the mountain, just like they do at your house. Every ski area can expect a couple of these each year, so we're all equipped with back-up systems that kick in when the lights go out. But what exactly happens when the power goes out at a ski resort? If chairlifts are powered by electricity, how do you get people off of the lifts? Here's a quick play by play of what happened Saturday, and our standard protocol when power outages happen.
At approximately 10:04am on Saturday, the first report of the power outage was made by a lift mechanic, who was performing a routine inspection at the Whiffletree chairlift. Just like the fuse box in your basement that supplies power to all of the appliances and electronics in your house, there are three different fuse boxes that power all of the lifts here at the mountain.
A few of our trained electricians made their way to the fuse box at the top of the Snubber lift, which powers Skidway, Whiffletree, King Pine, DRC, Skyline, T-Bar and the SuperQuad. While our Lift Electricians are responsible for maintaining and servicing the electrical components of each lift, the electricity that powers the mountain is sourced from CMP, so our team contacted them to repair the failed highline fuse that caused the outage.
In the meantime, the auxiliary back-up motors of the three down lifts were activated, to run off the passengers still on the lifts.
While the run-off time varies from lift to lift based on length of the line and speed of the auxiliary motor, all passengers were safely unloaded from the affected lifts by 10:40am.
Auxiliary run-off completions:
- Skidway - 10:18AM
- Whiffletree - 10:28AM
- King Pine - 10:40AM
Whiffletree and King Pine's auxiliary backup is diesel powered, while the auxiliary motor on Skidway runs on gasoline.
Coming from Stratton, CMP arrived roughly 30-45 minutes later, and quickly began assessing the extent of the outage. While the initial outage only affected the King Pine, Whiffletree, and Skidway lifts, power to the other lifts running off the same fuse box was knocked out during the repair process.
After inspecting the fuse box, CMP determined that a few replacement parts were needed, and had to go back to their base in Stratton to get the right parts. The appropriate repairs were made, all lifts were back online and open to the public by 1:15pm.
While brief localized power outages are common at ski resorts, two of our lifts, the SuperQuad and Skyline, are equipped with secondary diesel engines that allow them to run at normal speed for extended periods of time without the use of any electricity at all, if needed.
The reason that some lifts were able to continue running, while others were on hold is a result of where each lift draws its power. Because they are all spread so far apart, when the lifts were installed it was more efficient to separate the power sources based on lift location. Snubber, sawduster, and the Moosecalator get power through a fuse box located lower on the mountain than the one affected Saturday. The West Mountain Chair runs on its own fuse box, while the central mountain fuse box powers Skidway, Whiffletree, King Pine, DRC, Skyline, T-Bar and the SuperQuad