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Gondola tower partially collapses at Whistler!

Dec 17, 2008 at 5:48
by Tim Lake  
Just seen on the BBC news, that there's been a partial collapse of one of the Gondola towers at Whistler, which has left 50 skiers and snowboarders trapped. Don't really know much about this one, and I'm guessing there will be more about it on the Canadian news tonight.

But here's a brief overview of what's happened.Here's the news video on BBC news.

Here's the official report from Whistlerblackcomb.com

[Quoten]LATEST UPDATE - 6:25pm PST

The Excalibur Gondola evacuation was completed at 5:51 pm this evening. Fifty-three guests were safely evacuated from the lower line of the Excalibur Gondola after a structural failure on tower 4 caused the gondola to cease operation.

We are very thankful that no-one was seriously injured in this incident. A full investigation by Whistler Blackcomb and the BC Safety Authority is currently underway to determine the cause of the failure.

Earlier Statement Issued at 5:30pm PST

At approximately 2:30pm PST on Tuesday, December 16, a structural failure on tower 4 on Blackcomb Mountain's Excalibur Gondola caused the gondola to cease operation. No gondola cabins came off the line. There were several injuries that appear to be minor. Injured guests were treated at the Whistler Medical Clinic. The cause of the incident is unknown at this time and will be investigated, however the immediate priority has been to secure the tower and evacuate guests.

There is an upper and lower section to the Excalibur Gondola. The failed tower 4 on the lower section was secured by a crane and Whistler Blackcomb Ski Patrol and the Whistler Fire Department immediately implemented an emergency lift evacuation procedure. The upper section of the gondola, independent of the lower section, was unaffected by the incident and was cleared immediately of guests by normal procedure.

Fifty-three guests are being evacuated from the lower section. Whistler Blackcomb Ski Patrol, Whistler Fire Department, RCMP, BC Ambulance and Emergency Social Services are currently aiding in the evacuation and are extending care to guests being evacuated. The evacuation is well underway and is expected to be complete by 6:30pm. Communication to the guests still on-board is currently underway.

The Excalibur Gondola was built in 1994 and undergoes an extensive safety check every year by the BC Safety Authority. The last check took place within the past six months. Each gondola cabin holds eight people. The gondola section where the incident took place is approximate 30 feet above the ground.

A full investigation is underway by Whistler Blackcomb and the BC Safety Authority. Whistler Blackcomb will release further information as it becomes available.[/Quoten]
Find out more, here: Whistler Blackcomb official Report.

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107 Comments
  • 6 1
 It was likely bolt sheering caused by abnormal amounts of ice in the joint between the top section and the tower pole. It's more common than you'd think. The only reason this is getting so much press is because it was at Whistler. Considering that Whistler is the biggest resort in North America and the enormous amount of people that ride there every season, the fact this has only happened once shows how sound their lift system is. Don't make mountains out of mole hills, kids...
  • 2 1
 and the Olympics(the mountain events) are taking place there,
  • 2 3
 They already ruled it as ice jack causing the tower to collapse.
  • 3 0
 Truly not worth getting into a panic over. I'm sure they will now go overboard in their efforts to secure every bolt, belt, and weld in the park. Shit happens, and it appears they dealt with it professionally, quickly and safely.
  • 3 0
 for sure and props for the emergency ppl for gettin everybody down safe and all =)
  • 4 0
 Scary stuff. Best wishes to everyone who as caught up in it, hope the person with the fractured vertebra makes a full recovery. These kind of incidents are extremely rare and I hope it doesn't put people off. Big thank you to the rescuers.
  • 5 3
 no one got killed,i think its good it happened its a huge reminder to the maintincance and investigators to make sure it doesnt happen again especialy for the olympics so realisticly the gondola and everything for that matter should be that much safer now.
  • 8 1
 The towers were just inspected very recently. Also, what happened at Whistler was the first time that ice jacking (the reason causing the collapse) has ever caused a failure to a Doppelmayr tower.
  • 1 8
flag davidchelli (Dec 17, 2008 at 18:29) (Below Threshold)
 it has happened before in 1995 and its happened again
  • 6 1
 In 1995, that was not caused by ice jack. The chairs were not attached to the cable properly or securely and they fell right off the cable. No tower collapsed. The chairs did not grip the cable correctly.
  • 1 1
 my point was dont let anything pass,always inspect everything to its stnadard do everything you can do to prevent the accident,if it still hapens then its up to investigators to fix the problem usualy one way or another these things can be prevented,weather its maintinace or weather.
  • 0 0
 This has happened before on similar Doppelmayer towers. The questions is how did the water get into the tower that is filed with concrete and how did the most recent inspections miss it.
  • 0 0
 They say that water can seep in very quickly and freeze in just hours an Inspection would have never caught it. On another point the 1995 was not on the same lift either it was on the Quicksilver lift which I don't really know the history of.
  • 3 1
 I'm just thankful I ride Sun Peaks a lot more then I get around to riding Whistler. We're lucky no one was hurt, and it seems like their procedures went smoothly. Hopefully it'l be up and running again soon and be problem free Big Grin
  • 3 1
 definitly a good emergency drill warm-up. good thing everyones ok!
  • 5 0
 ha i ride revy so hopefully this never happens here cuz our gondala cabins are air craft tested meaning if they drop they wouldnt break and they will just roll down the hill and revy is steep
  • 2 0
 thats not gonna stop u from breaking...
  • 1 0
 yea we all think that if a derailment happens they can just scoop out our left overs and reuse the cabin:P
  • 6 1
 haha, i love how this made pinkbike, AND ITS OK, THIS GONDOLA HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE BIKE PARK Smile
  • 3 1
 but its at whistler and 99% of bikers ski or snowboard also
  • 5 3
 A tower 'splice'!!? That looks like a weld failure to me. If it is a weld failure, they need to inspect the rest of the towers for faulty welds. I thought they bolted the sections together but this one looks welded, go figure."A rare type of ice build has been blamed for the partial collapse of a gondola tower at Canada's Whistler ski resort." No, the blame has to placed upon the person who designed it. A good architect/engineer would have factored in all of the possible conditions that the project might encounter.The headline reads ice is to blame. Well, then. Why the bloody hell are they going to build a tower that will buckle to ice when that is the exact environment it is IN?!? Anybody? Darwin, party of one?Who could have guessed that there would be ice at a ski resort?
  • 3 1
 even with all those safety things, shit can still go wrong dont forget your not playing around with human stuff it was all nature caused shit happens. it could have happened anywhere dumbass. and some times shit brakes even welds get "soft" after a while
  • 2 0
 The question is how did the water get into the tower, not why wasn't the tower designed for this kind of weather. The towers are designed for this kind of weather and are seeled so that water does not get into them. Every tower of every lift on both mountains has now received two inspections as a result of this incident and all have been given the green light
  • 1 1
 exactly it was just an odd accident that happens rarely because of thses inpections
  • 6 1
 it would have been alot more severe if the peak to peak gondala colapsed
  • 2 2
 oh shit ya!
  • 3 0
 The reason the pole snapped was because water got inside the pole and froze which cracked the pole...thats what i heard on the news anyway...
  • 1 1
 That would also make sense. Same premise as the bolt shearing. Additional volume and pressure caused by ice.
  • 1 0
 The damage to the Excalibur Gondola tower was likely caused by "ice jacking," a situation where the water inside the tower tube froze, expanded and caused the tower splice to rupture, a spokesman for the ski resort has said.

A similar tower, made by Doppelmayr CTEC Ltd., snapped in half almost two years ago on a ski hill near Kellogg, Idaho, and the manufacturer had issued a safety alert to all its customers, including Whistler Blackcomb.

The three-page safety alert warned that "accumulated water within tower tubes can have catastrophic effects upon structural integrity."

"Routine annual maintenance activities must include a close visual inspection of all tower components including the tower base," said the alert, issued in December 2006.

That report also detailed an audio test to check for water in the towers by striking them with a hammer in several ascending places and listening for a change in tone, indicating there may be water inside.
  • 0 0
 There ya go - QFT
  • 3 1
 gonna get people thinking about the peak to peak since it's like 3 miles off the ground in the highest place...not like the fire dept. can save your ass there
  • 2 1
 Yeah, just a guess but I don't think the gondola is 15,800 feet above the ground. Better rethink your math classes in the future. But yes, you did have a good point in that you're kinda on your own up there for the moment.
  • 0 0
 Watch the global news, earlier today there was an explanation of it, there was a leak and water got on the inside of the tower, water turned to ice and ice expands, and the ice expanded right on a weld and put too much pressure and caused it to crack, just a freak accident by mother nature
  • 3 3
 "Ice jacking" is bullshit.

I'm a structural engineer and I have never heard of it before. Talked to an old timer at my office...same thing. Guaranteed it's a bad weld. This would let water in anyway = looks like ice did it. Thing is they can't say "bad weld" because everyone would have a shit.

If ice jacking exists, we'd have to worry about every steel connection out there that get a little cold and wet. It would shut down every bridge in the country for starters.

Bottom line is crap welds happen and all they need to do is x-ray all the welds on the other towers, not a big deal. I would be surprised if they didn't find another weld or two that needs reworking.
  • 1 0
 And I call bullshit on you.

communities.canada.com/theprovince/blogs/newsroom/archive/2008/12/19/whistler-knew-of-ice-jacking-danger-says-cbc-report.aspx

The Engineers at Doppelmayr CTEC Ltd knew about this problem years ago and it appears Whistler fell behind in their inspections.

Structural Engineer or not, Google is a wonderful thing.

/Mechanical myself.
  • 0 0
 Alls I'm saying is that they way they described it doesn't make sense, therefore bullshit. Even if ice did "jack" the tower, a good connection is designed to show lots of moment before is goes blammo. Which leads to either a design issue or a installation issue. Just because some PR firm put a sweet name to it doesn't mean its true.

It's like Fox telling you that your busted Talas is due to "Over-Manipulation of the Weight-to-Compression Matrix". Which basically means they're blaming you for being fork heavy on your landing rather than a bad ring they installed. It which case I call bullshit.
  • 1 0
 this is amusing. looks like the other guy got shut down.
  • 0 0
 Does Fox actually say "Over-Manipulation of the Whatwhatchamacallit Matrix Morpheus Neo Trinity Compression Ratio"? That's pretty hilarious.
  • 2 0
 I totally agree bmxer72, leave it to corporate greed and the media to skirt the real issue.
  • 4 2
 i heard about this today a teacher was talking about it for like 40 min
  • 3 0
 better than gibbering off about other useless shit...
  • 0 0
 ahahah whoever welded that tower is in huge shit now. but seriously that sucks for everyone on the gondola and whistler. damn.
  • 5 3
 That's gonna sketch some people out for sure.
  • 9 1
 your telling me you would pass up riding Whistler because they had an accident?
  • 2 3
 Come on you are riding bikes thats a f*ckin dangerous sport you risk your life every time you go down a trail you could break youre neck and die suddenly and now you will not ride the chairlift up cause one accident happend!?!
  • 3 0
 Not once did I say that people wouldn't ride there or use the chairlift, did i? No.
  • 2 2
 that is really surprising to me, resorts like this have huge, dedicated lift maintenance departments and for them to fail so completely is a bit scary.
  • 1 1
 If you had read the article you might have seen that a tower buckled. The line didnt even come off the rollers. It did not fail completely.
  • 2 0
 and im sure it was maintained properly. just one of those things...
  • 0 0
 Unless there was an inspection in the last couple of weeks they would have never caught this.
  • 1 1
 Detachable quad chairs run about three million bucks a pop for a 5,200 foot stretch. Figure around six to seven for a gondola.
  • 2 0
 I was on that Gondola The Saturday before this happened
  • 1 3
 ice jack does exist although its mostly seen in marine structures. Go figure with all the water. But yea the ice pulls out piles used in marinas to build docks and crap. there are devices to counter that. and it doesnt need to have a bad weld to get water inside, there is something called condensation.
  • 0 1
 Different thing.
  • 0 0
 tru but it is still called ice jack......whatever
  • 0 1
 But if the tube is totally sealed with good welds, how does water get in? It sure as hell doesn't "condense" out of nowhere.
  • 0 0
 air has moisture in it thats how
  • 0 1
 Sure, air has moisture in it. But would the amount of moisture in the air trapped in the tube upon welding really cause it to buckle? Come on. The tube would have to be filled with water, not air, for the freezing to break it. Use your head.
  • 0 0
 like i said .....whatever
  • 2 0
 that would suck to be on there when it collapsed
  • 0 0
 I hear the moon is pretty far away as well.
  • 2 1
 i heard about this today thats crazy....
  • 1 0
 Wow that's scary. I'm planning a trip there next summer.
  • 1 0
 thats insane! glad to hear that everyone is safe!
  • 0 1
 for the first for a while I don't envy access to ski uplifts !!! good old trusty legs and vans ..... I am glad no one got hurt!
  • 2 0
 bREAKING nEWS
  • 0 0
 my dad saw this on BBC news and told me about it, good to see that nobody was seriously injured!
  • 0 0
 i just pee'd myself from the shocking aerial footage OMG
ICE JACK.....
  • 1 1
 Hey i saw that on the new OUCH lol
  • 10 10
 man and they just built the new peak to peak
  • 33 7
 This is a different gondola.
  • 10 7
 Laurie is right, dont be negative propping her guys.
  • 6 4
 Peak to Peak is a cable car, not a gondola.
  • 1 0
 actually it's sort of a hybrid...it goes in circles and no back and forth from one end to the other..it's only really a cable car because there's 3 cables and only one moves
  • 3 0
 i know it is a diffent lift, i read the article just like you did. i was just point out that they had just built a new lift
  • 0 0
 I do see ericgsell's point they just built the Peak 2 Peak and it was by Dopplemayer again.
  • 1 1
 ouch, must cost alot of cash for one of them puppies
  • 1 1
 Holy crap! That sucks for the people on the lift and for whistler...
  • 0 1
 Whatever, we don’t need that one for the Bikepark Big Grin

But Olympics coming soon...
  • 1 1
 how fucking scary would that be!!!
  • 1 1
 that sucks for those people. good thing no one got hurt
  • 1 1
 ohh my goodness! is so scary!
  • 0 1
 it's called freeze thaw boys and girls pretty simple stuff...
  • 1 1
 atleast eeryones alive
  • 0 3
 most guttering!
  • 13 3
 It will be repaired ASAP. Engineers from Doppelmayr (the gondola's manufacturer) were already on the scene this morning. Seems like quick action has been taken and it should be up and running fairly soon I hope.
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