Woman Spends Night In Gondola Cabin

Post by Steven Dale

Last week in British Columbia, a 25 year old woman spent 12 hours overnight stuck in an Excalibur Gondola cabin at the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort.

The woman was unharmed and the incident was chalked up to “human error.”

Problem is, incidents like this will always put a damper on things. Anytime a city wants to explore a gondola transit project, there’s always going to be some guy in some room who stands up and points out the story of the woman who was trapped in a gondola for three days before anyone noticed.

Note how 12 hours is inflated to 3 days when dealing with some guy in some room retelling a story he’s using to reinforce some point he’s trying to make to someone.

It doesn’t matter that the protocols one implements in an urban setting (such as cctv, intercoms and daily vehicle cleanings) would preclude a problem like this from ever happening. The fact that it did happen is too good a story for people to pass up.

As cable grows in the urban market, you can be sure that people are going to pay more and more attention to the moments when it doesn’t work as planned. The fact that cable does what’s it’s supposed to do 99.98% of the time just isn’t that good a story. Reliability is a good selling point, but unreliability is a better story.

Politics and advocacy is as much about stories as it is about stats, polls and votes. The cable industry has to learn how to manage those stories and understand that as they become the new kid on the block, there’s going to be more and more people waiting to use stories like these for their own political, financial and personal gain.

And you thought your hotel room was small. Image by flickr user Andrew Smith.

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Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.


  1. I read the story, and this section stood out. >>The incident comes down to a mistake by the lift host who shouldn't >>have uploaded the woman from mid-station at that time of day, and >>who then "forgot" that she was on the gondola, Forseth said. Only >>one staff member is responsible for the mistake and disciplinary >>measures have been taken. It seems the whole operation is responsible for relying on one person to "remember" that someone was in a cabin. Don't they check how many people board the last few cabins and make sure they all get off, or count out that all the cabins leave the station empty before shutting down the line? This sort of thing needs systematized checks involving more then one person, so that no can be simply "forgotten" .
  2. This “human error” is not possible at urban ropeways. At urban gondolas you need and have an intercom system (Algerian urban ropeways). You need it, because of security of women in an alarming class and mobile phone technology is not so expensive. Gondolas going up and down at hills are “garaged on the rope”, because they are in a state of equilibrium: Gondolas riding down pull up gondolas riding up. But gondolas “on plain” do not pull up other gondolas and you waste energy to transport empty gondolas. So empty gondolas has to be garaged in the evening (with less traffic) at every destination stop.
  3. @ Erik, It also would've helped if she had a cell phone on her.
  4. Apparently, she was in quite good spirits considering her ordeal. The "liftee" employee was fired as a result. Typically, marking the "last chair" is a consummate daily task at every lift on a ski hill. If it is left up to an individual however, Human Error will always play a part. In future, doors on the "upper line" of Excalibur gondola should be prevented from opening or closed automatically after cease of daily operations.
  5. I bet she got a lifelong ticket for the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort :)
  6. @ off the cuff, Human Error is always a problem. Systems need to be designed around the human propensity for errors. This will become especially important in urban installations.
  7. yet you never seem to hear about all those kids who fall asleep on school buses and wake up at the bus yard some "three days" later

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