King Pine lift reopens at Sugarloaf

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The King Pine Lift reopened Saturday, following an investment of approximately $800,000 in a new terminal.
The King Pine lift reopened Saturday, following an investment of approximately $800,000 in a new terminal.

CARRABASSETT VALLEY – Sugarloaf’s King Pine lift reopened this weekend, after months of testing following the installation of a new, $800,000 load-terminal.

It is the first time the public has been able to ride the four-person lift since March 21, when a malfunction of the 27-year-old lift’s drive system allowed chairs to reverse direction and slip 550 feet back down the mountain. Seven skiers received non-life threatening injuries as a result of the incident, and a 2-hour rescue operation conducted by ski patrollers and firefighters evacuated more than 200 other riders.

A final report was issued by the Maine Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation in December. It indicated that a failure of a coupling in the lift’s drive system was what caused the rollback. Two emergency systems, a bullwheel backstop service and the automatic actuation of the emergency brake, also failed to work as intended, according to the report. The rollback was stopped by a lift attendant using a manual brake.

Sugarloaf’s engineers disagreed that the emergency brake did not automatically engage, but otherwise largely agreed with the state’s findings. A “confluence of mechanical failures” caused the incident, Karl Strand, Sugarloaf’s president and general manager said in response to the report.

While all maintenance inspections at Sugarloaf were found to follow state code, the resort has since incorporated additional steps, such as borescope inspections that use small optical tools to view areas that would otherwise not be visible.

The King Pine lift’s terminal was completely replaced with a new model designed and manufactured by Dopplemayr. It cost $800,000 to design and install, part of approximately $1.3 million in funds Sugarloaf has invested in lift infrastructure this year. It incorporates new braking and anti-rollback technology that Strand previously said went “well beyond manufacturer and regulatory requirements.”

The new lift opened at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 2.

“Today’s reopening was made possible by our diligent and committed Lift Department,” said Strand. “This new terminal will improve the overall lift experience for our guests, and ensure safe and reliable access to some of Sugarloaf’s unique signature terrain in the King Pine Bowl and Brackett Basin.”

The new TRISTAR terminal, the same style as Sugarloaf’s Skyline Quad, features a redesigned gear box and an all-new tensioning system. Powered by a 400 horsepower motor, the new terminal runs at 450 feet per minute with the ability to transport 2,100 skiers per hour. An additional horsepower Cummins Diesel engine serves as an auxiliary power unit.

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