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Hundreds of people helped off Alberta mountain after power cut to Banff Gondola

Patrons of the Banff Gondola have all been helped off the mountain as of late Tuesday morning after they were marooned both in the gondola cabins and at the summit of Sulphur Mountain’s interpretive centre on Monday evening due to a power outage that impacted the lift.

At the time power was cut there were between 400 and 500 people on top of the mountain, says Mark Hendrikse, a spokesperson with Pursuit, the company that runs the operation in the mountain town.

“Our first priority was getting the folks stuck on the gondola cabins off the cabin safely,” Hendrikse said on Tuesday.

A women in a white hoodie and patterend baseball cap and a man in a striped button up shirt in a navy hat stand in Banff.
Ross, right, and Carol Chenot, slept on the floor of the interpretive centre at the summit of Sulphur Mountain in Banff, Alta, on Monday evening after the gondola’s power cut out during a storm. (CBC Calgary)

Everyone stuck in the gondola cabins was helped off first Monday evening, but the company was unable to operate the lift to bring down the many guests who remained at the summit of Sulphur Mountain at the Above Banff interpretive centre, Hendrikse said.

Helicopters with Parks Canada flew all remaining guests off the summit by 11:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, he said.

Some Banff Gondola patrons opted to hike down the 5 1/2-kilometre trail Monday evening, while others slept on the floor of the centre overnight. Some chose to hike down Tuesday morning.

WATCH | Visitor describes what happened with Banff gondola: 

hundreds of people helped off alberta mountain after power cut to banff gondola 1

Hundreds helped off mountain after Banff gondola outage

14 hours ago

Duration 0:39

Hundreds of people were stranded overnight Monday after a power outage shut down the Banff gondola. At the time power was cut, there were between 400 and 500 people on top of Sulphur Mountain, says Mark Hendrikse, a spokesperson with Pursuit, the company that runs the operation in the mountain town. Everyone had been helped off the mountain by late Tuesday morning.

Carol and Ross Chenot, from the central coast of California, were in line to catch a gondola car back down the mountain Monday evening when Carol heard what she described as a “huge clunk.”

“Really, all we could think about initially was, ‘oh, those poor people that are coming up,’ you know, they’re swinging up there with no place to go,” she said.

She says the people who were stuck on the lift were offloaded at the summit, but then she and her partner were told the gondola would not be going back down.

Carol said there were people huddled up in silver blankets across the different floors of the centre. Some parents had young children with them overnight.

“We found a spot on the floor and up against the wall and spent the night,” she said.

Carol and Ross caught a helicopter in the morning with the remaining Banff Gondola patrons who had waited out the night.

They said food, drink and blankets were provided to those who stayed the night and for those who made the hike down. 

“They did an excellent job of keeping us satisfied.”

Photographer Pala Kovacs was snapping wedding pictures at the interpretive centre when the malfunction occurred. She and her clients were stranded for roughly 15 hours on the chilly mountaintop. 

While Kovacs praised the staff at the centre for their efforts amid the difficult situation, she wondered why there wasn’t a  more robust contingency plan in place for the outage. 

“It was pretty cold in there for an August evening, and we didn’t really have anything to keep warm. Had that been a winter night, that would have been a different story.” 

In an earlier statement provided Tuesday, Parks Canada said it was working with Pursuit to get visitors down from the summit.

“The safety of those impacted is our top priority,” Emma Badgery, a communications officer from the Banff field unit, said in an email.

A man in a great suit stand in front of the Banff Gondola.
Pursuit has not had a shutdown like this in 20 years, says company spokesperson Mark Hendrikse. (CBC Calgary)

Pursuit will be providing those impacted with reimbursements, Hendrikse said.

He says they are now assessing the “gondola failure.” The lift was operating again at about 4 p.m., according to a statement on Pursuit’s website. 

“This was a very unprecedented event at the gondola. We have not in the last 20 years had a shutdown of this magnitude with that many guests at the top of the mountain,” he said.

“I’m proud of how our teams reacted in terms of safety protocol and that in terms of hospitality as, we supported those guests as they stayed with us overnight.”

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