Forty-eight people were rescued from two cars that became stranded on the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway Sunday afternoon.
Cannon Mountain area lift mechanics and ski patrol were alerted to the unplanned stop at 1:50 p.m.
Greg Keeler, of Cannon Mountain, said employees could see the bottom tram car suspended about 40 feet off the ground from the parking lot and the highway.
The tramway system has two cars that move at the same time; one leaves the bottom terminal and one leaves the top terminal.
A statement issued by Cannon Mountain on their website said that both cars came to a stop roughly 50-75 feet from their destinations due to a mechanical issue that caused the braking system to engage and get stuck.
Keeler said 41 people were on board the lower car, and seven people were in the top car.
Just after 3 p.m., blankets were sent up to the top car to help guests stay warm.
Around 3:20 p.m., ski patrol and firefighters began evacuating people, rappelling them down from the tram car.
The top car was evacuated by 3:45 p.m., and the bottom car was evacuated by 4:45 p.m.
Guests were escorted into the terminal restaurants and offered hot food and drinks.
Passengers from the top car were were brought down the mountain by a snowcat at 4:30 p.m. All guests were offered vouchers to come back another day.
Emergency personnel were on hand at the base and summit and no injuries were reported.
WMUR Escape Outside editor Paula Tracy was one of the people stranded on the tram and was evacuated before 4:45 p.m.
“It was very frightening, actually. But they did a professional job and I was happy to get back on the ground,” said Tracy.
Tracy said there were 41 people in her car. She said they felt a “severe jolt” before the tram stopped.
“So it just swung hard. It swung back and we knew that there was a problem,” said Greg Russell, one of the rescued tram passengers.
While there were some very tense moments, there was never any panic, Tracy said.
“It wasn’t too bad at first because we thought it was going to be a quick, little fix,” said Matt Dew. “But it ended up taking like an hour and a half to two hours.”
She said most of the people on board were adults, primarily skiers.
Tracy said George and Sabrina Lewis, along with their au pair, Paula, and their 8-month-old daughter Remy, were there to sightsee rather than to ski. She said George and Sabrina Lewis were wearing jeans.
She also said the lift operator, Courtney Lockhart, gave her coat to the family to help warm the baby.
“And then the baby just went right to sleep, which was great. And they just sat there like everybody else,” said Tracy.
The family was among the first to be evacuated from the car.
While they waited, some passengers made light of the situation.
“Everyone was laughing and having fun, so it was just a different experience,” said Dew.
All 48 passengers were brought inside and given blankets and hot food and drinks.
“It was a bit harrowing, especially to be lowered from the floor of the tram on a cable,” said Tracy.
“This is my ninth winter here at Cannon, [and this was the] first [evacuation] that we’ve actually done live,” said John DeVivo, general manager at Cannon Mountain Ski Area.
“We actually run a tram inspection of every tower and essentially all the moving parts every single morning regardless of whether the tram is going to operate for the public that day,” said DeVivo.
Keeler said the mountain does not believe the cold was a factor and that the tram was running without issues in colder temperatures earlier in the day.
Lift mechanics are still correcting the issue with the tramway, and the mountain expects to re-open the tram as soon as possible.
On their Facebook page, Cannon Mountain said the issue that caused the tram to stop operating will not be a quick and easy fix.
They said they are dedicating all available resources to correcting the problem as soon as possible.
The tram is not expected to run Monday, and they anticipated an additional 1-2 days to correct the problem.
“Our apologies to those hung up today — we’re glad we got you on the ground safely and also to all the tram fans — we’ll get it to you as soon as we can without delay,” the statement read.
Despite the inconvenience, passengers said they knew they were in good hands.
“I had a pretty comforting feeling that I was being saved,” said Dew.