On Friday, Jan. 7, a broken water hydrant at North Carolina’s Beech Mountain Ski Resort saturated skiers with high-velocity water. The state’s Department of Labor is now investigating the incident.
Footage taken from the incident shows a gargantuan, geyser-like column of water shooting up from a hole in the ground onto the chairlifts above.
The sheer force of the gush blew some patrons off of the lift entirely; those on the ground nearby attempted to cover the spray with a snowboard — to no avail. Two skiers were transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
A statement from Beech Mountain officials provided details about the cause: A skier had collided with a water and air hydrant used in snowmaking. The collision effectively uncapped the high-pressure equipment, causing it to unload on the chairlift above.
Water Hydrant Soaks Skiers in Whiteout Conditions
It’s unclear how long it took ski resort operators to cut the waterline; atmospheric temps hovered around 7 degrees Fahrenheit at the time of the incident. The conditions, as reported by those present and as evidenced in video from the scene, bordered on whiteout.
One particularly grim video, posted to YouTube by Louis Dillard, shows the chairlift coming to a halt, holding one skier directly above the gush for the better part of 2 minutes.
“The problem was when they stopped the lifts, they stopped a chair directly above the water,” witness and Beech Mountain patron Tim Williams told WCNC news.
Avery County EMS transported 19-year-old Emma LaPinto and another female, whose identity was not disclosed, to a nearby hospital. Another skier, Ivy-Elise Ivey, suffered a broken arm after she and her boyfriend jumped from the chairlift.
“As soon as we became aware of the problem, we took action as quickly as possible to shut off the water and assist the remaining skiers in disembarking at the top of the lift,” management for Beech Mountain said.
“We very much regret that the incident occurred, and we again offer our apologies to the guests that were adversely affected.”
The Department of Labor’s investigation remains ongoing. No additional details are yet available.