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Tram smacks into tower on Mount Alyeska, prompting evacuation

Alaska Dispatch

Buffeted by winds exceeding 45 mph, the tram that shuttles skiers and diners up Mount Alyeska bashed into one of the towers that supports it, injuring one of the guests about 7:20 p.m. Monday.

Jason Lott of Alyeska Resort described the injuries of the woman passenger as minor, not requiring medical attention.  "She had a bump on her head,” Lott said. There were two guests and three employees in the first tram car that was descending at the time of the incident, according to Lott. He said the tram was a few hundred feet from the terminal station at the top of the mountain when the collision took place.

Some 60 people were at Alyeska’s Seven Glaciers restaurant high on the mountain when the tram smashed into the tower. Most walked to Chair 1, where they descended to the base of Mount Alyeska. 

Two guests and three employees were in the tram that was descending when the collision took place "a few hundred feet from the terminal station," Lott said. A second car with two Alyeska employees was ascending at the time and also was stopped. Those passengers were evacuated, too. All together, the evacuation took about two hours. About three quarters of evacuees were taken down Chair 1 and the rest traveled by Snow Cats dispatched to the scene by Alyeska.

"It made for interesting evening for a lot of people," Lott said. 

Lott said the resort typically shuts its lifts when winds reach speeds of 30 to 40 mph, but he said "this was kind of one of those gusts that came out of nowhere." Nevertheless, the region has seen high winds over the past several days as a warm, low-pressure front pushed in, delivering winds that approached 100 mph.  Gusts hit 90 mph on Sunday, Lott said. 

New Year's Eve is typically one of the busier nights of the year at Seven Glaciers restaurant. 

Mechanics are investigating the accident to access the damage to the tram and the tower. The tram remained closed on Tuesday as mechanics investigated the accident to assess damages.

Lott said this is the first time a passenger has been injured on Alyeska's tram since the new hotel opened in 1995.