Skip to main content

The story behind that viral, terrifying ski lift malfunction video you’ll see posted across social media all winter long

Everything you need to know about a video you're going to see a lot of

People on ski lift
Raymond Roig / Getty Images

Your first ski lift ride is usually a chilled experience — for skiers, at least; it’s a different beast for beginner snowboarders. It’s also usually your first chance to leave the bunny slopes behind you and get your head into the clouds, riding high and looking down over the entire ski resort. But not everyone’s ski lift experiences are that positive.

If you’ve never ridden a ski lift and want your first experience completely untainted, then now is probably a good time to skip over to some of our other ski and snowboard-related content. Ski lift malfunctions are not commonplace, but the terrifying viral video below shows that they can be chaotic and highly dangerous when they go wrong. But just what happened for this chair to go out of control in the first place?

Why did the Gudauri ski lift malfunction?

In short, it was human error that caused this chaos to unfold. According to Agenda.GE — a news outlet run by the Administration of the Government of Georgia — a group of experts was invited to investigate the ski lift malfunction within two days of the accident.

These experts analyzed the memory device stored within the ski lift and found that a voltage drop had caused the lift to stop spinning. Immediately, the ski lift operator should have fired up the backup diesel generator, allowing the skiers and snowboarders riding the lift to continue to the top of the mountain safely before the lift was shut down. There is no mention of brake failure.

This human error led to severe and non-serious injuries to eleven people, most of whom were fortunately discharged from the hospital the same day. In reality, the consequences could have been far worse, and it’s no surprise — given the findings — that the two operators faced charges and a potential prison sentence for their negligence.

Ski lifts sitting in the abyss
DDP / Unsplash

Are ski lifts dangerous?

The overwhelming majority of ski-related accidents do not happen on a ski lift, and these kinds of accidents are uncommon. The fact that this viral video is still doing the rounds when it happened back in 2018 should indicate how rare these events are. What’s more, it was a human error that caused this incident. Most ski lifts have mechanical fail-safes and do not rely on the ski lift operator.

In reality, the main danger on a ski lift is the rider. Riders who ride without the bar, swing the lift, or wriggle around on slipper seats all risk falling from a height that can cause serious injuries.

Here are a few tips for ski lift safety:

  • Make sure you know what you’re doing, and tell the lift operator if you’re unsure or if it’s your first time riding a lift.
  • Wait your turn, and don’t try to rush to catch a lift — a swinging lift can cause injuries, and there’s a reason you should be at the ‘load here’ line when the operator asks you to.
  • Sit back on your seat and make sure any children do the same. This stops you from sliding forward and under the bar.
  • Always ride with the bar lowered, and don’t raise it too early. There will usually be signs telling you to raise the bar.

Editors' Recommendations

Tom Kilpatrick
A London-born outdoor enthusiast, Tom took the first ticket out of suburban life. What followed was a twelve-year career as…
3 things you should always do on your iPhone before you go skiing or snowboarding
Follow this smartphone checklist before hitting the slopes
Skiing snowboarding goggles gear

Smartphones. Love them or loathe them — it's hard to imagine how the world operated before them. The level of connectivity we have now was unimaginable even in fairly recent years. Forget your iPhone when you're heading out the door, and it's like you've left a kidney behind — that empty space in your pocket where your phone should be burning a hole all day.

In the outdoors, smartphones are essential for emergency situations, often used for navigation, and of course, taking the all-important photos — if it's not on social media, did it really happen? But there's so much more to your smartphone, and when it comes to ski days, you can achieve most of your planning right from the comfort of your handset, all while enjoying a cup of coffee or sitting on the John. Here are the most important things to do on your smartphone before you hit the slopes.

Read more
Are you a top shredder? These incredible U.S. ski resorts are for you
Head to one of these first-class resorts when you're ready to take on your biggest skiing challenge yet
Skiiers look down couloir from the edge

So you think you're quite the ripper, huh? Do you carve around ski resorts, shredding any groomer in your path or pounding the pow-turns repeating the mantra "no friends on a powder day" every time you leave your crew behind? Are you first in line with your snowboard in the morning and the last one off the mountain at night? Do you spend your evenings meticulously waxing your skis or looking for ways to update your snowboarding equipment to get the edge?

Perhaps not. Heck, some of the best shredders I know have never waxed a snowboard in their life, and don't even mention the idea of new gear to them — they're barely able to afford breakfast. Great skiers and snowboarders come from all walks of life, but one thing they have in common is their love of great lines. Some love steep, some want deep. Bowls, couloirs, gulleys, drops, kickers, trees. You name it, we want to ride it. The best skiers demand the best ski resorts with the most vertical meters, varied terrain, and of course, the best off-piste parties going. Here, then, are the best ski resorts in the U.S. for experienced skiers and snowboarders.

Read more
This service delivers premium ski and snowboard rental equipment to top-tier resorts across the U.S.
Premium rentals, premium resorts
The Premium lineup from Ski Butlers.

We’ll whisper it: you should rent your skis and snowboard on your next trip. We get it. You’ve got your pride and joy — your perfect setup — and you want to shred it at every opportunity. But when was the last time you mixed it up a little? Come to that, when was the last time you flew to a new resort without the added hassle of hauling your ski bag across the country? What if we told you that your one fear with gear rental wouldn’t be an issue?

Because we all know that concern — ‘what if the gear is no good and I can’t ride as well?’ — and it’s part of the reason we bought our gear in the first place, right? Well, Ski Butlers has excellent news for you. They recently announced the release of their Premium line of equipment delivered right to your door. This line builds on their current Rossignol setup with partnership skis from Parlor Skis, Wagner Skis, and a snowboard created with Whitespace, the brand brainchild of legendary rider Shaun White. Here’s what Ski Butlers offers.

Read more