Driving back home from a visit to my family today I was struck by the deep contrast in the CNN reports on the tragedy near the top of Sugarloaf Mountain Ski Resort and the chaos at New York City airports. Both were related to the snow storms, but in case of the ski lift the problem was taken care of in one hour, meanwhile tens of thousands of people had their vacations ruined by the long delays and cancellations of flights. The obvious difference is that the Sugarloaf resort was private property while the airports are public entities.
Apparently a severe wind gust caused a failure in the ski lift sending several skiers plummeting to the ground and stranding dozens more in the freezing wind. Officials said that nothing like that had ever happened before and yet within minutes the ski patrol had responded to the injured and then they quickly put in motion a procedure which freed the trapped skiers from the ski lift. A CNN official who was trapped on the ski lift described the whole thing calling the response amazing, professional and prompt.
Meanwhile, in New York airports chaos reined. Flights were canceled and delayed, which is quite natural. In addition to the general chaos at the airports, passengers on several arriving flights were forced to remain in the planes for up to 12 hours without food or water. There has been much finger pointing as to who was responsible, but ultimately the blame lies with the public control of New York airports by the Port Authority, along with union labor and possibly with the Customs Department.
In contrast to the incident on Sugarloaf, blizzards are a regular common events that should be planned for, including contingency planning–especially for the holidays! Heads should roll but probably will not.