Reeling From Chairlift Disaster, How Transparency Helped Sugarloaf Ski Area Rebound

Maine’s Sugarloaf Mountain faced a PR crisis last winter, when the cable of a busy double chairlift slipped, dropping crowded chairs to the ground during Christmas Vacation week.

But where others may’ve faltered, Sugarloaf’s PR and marketing team dealt with the problem head-on. And if you look at its website today, the resort is documenting construction as they swiftly replace the old lift at the heart of the disaster.

Remarkably, everyone on the failing chairlift survived the harrowing accident, some with more serious injuries than others.

But once hundreds of skiers were removed from crippled lift and victims taken to the hospital, Sugarloaf faced an onslaught of reporters, some framing the story as a ski vacation nightmare. Outlets like ABC News rushed to this remote corner of Maine – some four hours north of Boston – making sure to have live reports at dinnertime and again the following morning.

But faced with arguably the worst accident in the resort's history, Sugarloaf demonstrated a measure of good PR: transparency.

In the hours following the accident, the ski area released continual updates to the media and updated its Facebook page with new information. That pattern continued in the days that followed. And messages conveyed the importance of the accident, while providing as much information as possible about victims and possible causes of the accident.

With the ski season long-since finished, it's clear Sugarloaf’s transparency continues, demonstrated by its chairlift construction updates. And while resort owners can’t un-do the past, they’ve conveyed their message clearly: the situation was regrettable, and Sugarloaf is taking steps to ensure an accident doesn’t occur again.

Contributed by Aaron Kellogg. Follow him @KelloggAaron