On Friday, Jon Standing and a ski student were nearly hit by a 40-kilogram chunk of metal that fell off of the T-bar at Mount Sima.
After that close call, Standing, the program director of the Yukon’s Alpine Ski Association, is keeping his students off of the local hill.
“Enough is enough, we’re pulling the plugs on all of our programs,” said Standing on Monday.
“I’m not going to look back and say, ‘I wish I would have said something.’”
The broken piece was a shiv battery — one of the wheels that help feed the lift cable up the mountain.
It fell to the ground were Standing and the student had been just seconds before.
“The scary thing is that because it’s something that holds the cable on, it fell straight down, which means it would have landed right on somebody,” said Standing.
“I’ve been around lifts a lot — I was a lift operator for six years and I’ve never seen anything like that ever happen — not even close.”
The lift was shut down for the weekend and may remain closed indefinitely, said Standing.
The hill’s general manager may recommend that the hill not run at all this year, he added.
Mount Sima has been having trouble opening, due to a lack of snow and problems with the chairlift and snowmaking equipment.
The hill finally opened on January 19.
Mount Sima staff hasn’t been able to make as much snow as usual.
This is because a snow machine was ruined after a line was dragged up the hill last summer, filling it with gravel and debris.
The line wasn’t flushed out properly, remained plugged up with debris and then froze.
“The line that the hill has toed all along is that there hasn’t been enough snow,” said Standing.
“I can tell you right now, there’s enough snow up there in a lot of places to open a couple runs — we just got a whole bunch.”
There may have been more serious problems then just a lack of snow.
Proper records weren’t kept of the maintenance that was supposed to be done on the hill’s lifts, said Standing.
“On a normal chairlift, every bit is normally logged so that you know when to maintain it, if there are any issues with it, that sort of thing,” he said.
“Lift (operators) are very fastidious about this — normally it’s done very, very carefully.”
The log was not kept up at Mount Sima.
“I don’t know exactly when the log stopped, but my understanding is that there was a big gap up until this point,” said Standing.
“Either the maintenance wasn’t done at all, or it just wasn’t kept track of.
“It’s probably more likely that it was done and just not kept track of.”
An inspection of the T-bar last year found a variety of things that needed to be fixed.
“That list was taken care of this year,” said Standing.
“But obviously there were other issues.”
Staff has also been having problems with the hill’s chair lift.
Recently it was discovered that a test of the cable hadn’t been done and maintenance had to pull all of the chairs off the lift.
A certified millwright had to be at the hill to oversee putting the chairs back on.
“It’s kind of like how you can’t perform surgery without a real doctor in Canada,” said Standing.
“They had to have a millwright present — they didn’t — and they just started slamming chairs back on.
“I’m not sure whether they had to take the chairs off again or just do a thorough inspection with a millwright there,” he said.
“But regardless, they didn’t follow the proper procedure.”
This was why the chair was not up and running last weekend.
And then a chunk of the T-bar fell off.
“I’m not trying to blame anybody — the last thing I want to see is a witch hunt,” said Standing.
“People were really busy last winter, I think the volunteers have done a lot of work in the past and it’s obviously just gotten to the scope where it’s too much for them.”
On Friday, Ernie Berken of the Great Northern Ski Society, the non-profit that runs the hill, announced that the hill would do a season pass exchange.
Season pass holders could exchange their tickets for a cheaper five or 10-day punch card.
The deal was an attempt to address the concerns of the public about the late opening of Mount Sima.
It’s still unclear whether full refunds will be given in the event of the hill closing for the rest of the year.