Whistler gondola tower collapses

17th December 2008, by Chris Gill

A tower on a Whistler gondola partially collapsed on Tuesday 16 December, leaving more than a dozen skiers stranded.

The accident happened at about 2.30pm local time on the Excalibur gondola, which serves the resort’s Blackcomb Mountain from the village. Several cabins were involved, but no serious injuries have been confirmed and the rescue services responded quickly to free the trapped passengers.

According to local newspapers, the tower collapsed near Fitzsimmons Creek - about mid-way on the lift system - leaving one cabin suspended high over the Creek, while another couple crashed into a bus shelter and house near the base.

None of the gondola cars fell from the connecting cable after the collapse, said resort spokeswoman Michelle Leroux. In some places the cable had sagged low enough for the rescue services to quickly free the trapped skiers and boarders but for those suspended high above the creek, the rescue operation is proving more difficult.

The Excalibur eight-seat gondola is one of the resort’s oldest lifts and runs for 2,204 metres up Blackcomb Mountain, in two stages. Only the lower stage has been affected by Tuesday’s incident. The cause of the tower’s collapse is unknown, but witnesses have said that the it just seemed to snap, sending cars swinging violently and sliding down the cable.

The accident comes just days after the new $52 million Peak 2 Peak gondola, connecting Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, made its public launch.

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