I had something happen today that’s never happened to me on a ski day before: I, along with a bunch of other folks, got stuck on a lift long enough that the resort opened a room for us to gather in after we got unstuck and stocked it with hand warmers, blankets, and lunch. I’m not sure how long we were up there, since when we first stopped, there was no indication this would be anything out of the ordinary. It’s not unusual for a lift to stop temporarily but generally it gets going again before too long. This time it didn’t.
I was riding up with two guys I didn’t know, having boarded from the singles line. It turned out that one of them was a liftie, so he had some informed speculation about what the problem might be (a wind sensor; it was gusting pretty good) and what might happen if they weren’t able to clear it (evacuation via rope with a small t-bar-esque seat attached).
Skiing down to the lift this particular time, I’d seen Mr. Karen riding up and expected he might wait for me at the top so we could ski together for a while (we’d gotten separated originally because I was slower getting going this morning and he was planning to maybe meet up with some guys he’d skied with yesterday). After a while, I saw him skiing down under the lift. He stopped under the chair I was on and yelled something up at me, but with the wind whistling around my head, I couldn’t hear. He yelled again and the guy next to me, who wasn’t wearing a helmet, said “he says we’re going to be here a while”. Message relayed, Mr. Karen continued his journey down to the base.
Some while after that, we heard a snowmobile behind us and saw ski patrollers coming down in front of us. The snowmobile operator was running uphill, stopping under each chair and letting people know they were going to run the lift backwards for about a tower length to clear a problem at the top, then they’d run it forward and unload us at the top. The ski patrollers were doing the same thing working downhill. They met right about our chair, so we got the news twice. The liftie next to me knew the snow machine driver by name, so that was a nice personal touch.
Then we waited for another while. The patrollers had skied out from under the lift onto the run, where we could watch them confer with each other and with other parts of the mountain via radio. The lift eventually backed down a tiny bit, stopped for a little while, then backed down some more, stopped again for a while, then slowly, slowly made its way to the top. The guy next to me noticed a gap in the chairs coming down and said they’d taken a chair off, which is very very unusual to happen at the top of a lift. When we got near the top, we saw that chair sitting in the snow some distance away from the unload area. It was freaky.
As we got to the lift house, the supervisor was there asking people if they were okay, as was a liftie at the unload stripe, and more folks were at the bottom of the unload ramp directing us to a room in the lodge at the base of the mountain, though I slid by so quickly I didn’t get details of what was in the room or why we should go there. I skied around to the side to take the photo above (the wind was still gusting, so I was lucky I got even one shot where you can sort of see the chair on the ground), then skied down to the base, where Mr. Karen was waiting. He’d seen the problem start at the top when he was waiting up there for me to get up and join him: just as a chair was coming into the unload area, a big gust of wind knocked it out of skew, jamming it on the cable with the chair at an angle. He didn’t wait to see how they got the people off that, as he knew it would be a while before I got up to the top and conditions were not conducive to waiting there, as it was cold and gusty and there’s no shelter at that point on the mountain.
I told Mr. Karen about the room I’d been directed to, so we went to check that out and found the aforementioned re-warming supplies. And that’s how I got a free lunch on the mountain today. If we’d not been annual passholders, we could have gotten a free lift ticket for another day, too.
I’m all for having new experiences, but this is one I’m not especially anxious to repeat. Fortunately I’d layered up appropriately for the weather and didn’t have to pee, so sitting on the lift for whatever amount of time that was wasn’t too bad. A big gust did catch our skis and rattle the chair at one point, but we’d put the safety bar down so that was okay, too.
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