UPDATE: 4 p.m. MT, Jan. 16: OnTheSnow's Midwest Editor spoke to Alpine Valley Area Manager George Shaffer today. He said the area was experiencing large crowds and operating as usual. He confirmed the facts as reported in our updates, and set the number of evacuees at 84.
UPDATE: 1 p.m. MT, Jan. 16: A broken gearbox on a chairlift at Alpine Valley Ski Area, Ohio, caused the lift to jam, and ski patrollers and firemen to team up and rescue 84 skiers and snowboarders. That number has varied in reports to as high as 90. A day later, Area Manager George Shaffer confirmed no one was hurt, but many got cold waiting for the rope evacuation.
The rescue was conducted by trained ski patrollers and firefighters mostly by using chairs attached to a rope and pulley. Others were lowered in a harness.
Amanda Garrett, of the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper quotes Shaffer as saying the lift "just stopped. There was no danger of skiers falling or the lift derailing." An accident in Sugarloaf, Maine several weeks ago saw a lift derail and there were about eight injuries.
Garrett's report said lift mechanics had disassembled the gear box by mid-evening last night and thought the lift could be repaired and running by week's end.
The malfunction occurred in one of the ski industry's busiest weekends of the season with the Martin Luther King Holiday tomorrow. Other lifts at the ski area remain open.
"Basically it had a happy ending," Shaffer told the newspaper. "No one had frostbite, not one was taken to the hospital.
UPDATE 5 p.m. Jan. 15: Munson Township Fire Chief Bernie Harcher told OnTheSnow that all 90 people stuck on a chairlift at Alpine Valley Ski Area, 35 miles from Cleveland, were evacuated safely after the lift "broke and jammed." Chief Harcher said the Ski Patrol started the evacuation and called the Fire Department, which is about 1.5 miles from the area. Six rescue teams were on the scene.
"Everyone on the lift was evacuated within two hours and there was not one injury," Chief Harcher told us.
Weather in the afternoon was cloudy, 29 degrees, and winds were 25 miles per hour, apparently not unusual.
This is the second chairlift evacuation at a ski area in three weeks. A lift at Sugarloaf, Maine derailed and skiers and snowboarders were tossed to the snow below. There were eight injuries and no deaths in that accident.
A television station in Cleveland earlier reported there were multiple fire engines on the scene at Alpine Valley helping in the rope rescue efforts.
News Channel 5 reporter Alicia Scicolone said the scene was "rather chaotic and police and fire crews were directing traffic as well as working on the rescue."
Alpine Valley is said to get more natural snowfall than any other ski area in Ohio and is the only one with wooded trails. It is located 35 miles from downtown Cleveland.
Calls to the ski resort by media, including OnTheSnow, yielded only "the best I can do is to take your number and call back." No call back has yet been received. The same response was received by other media.
There are other ski areas named Alpine Valley in Wisconsin and Michigan. OnTheSnow will continue to update and follow this story.