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#219286 - 03/15/11 06:36 PM Re: Surviving a Chair Lift at a Ski Resort [Re: ireckon]
chaosmagnet Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/03/09
Posts: 3116
Loc: USA
An emergency rappel with paracord is asking for serious injury or death. It's too narrow and slippery to work right for rappelling. Paracord is rated for 550 lbs of static load; the dynamic loads of a rappel would be between twice and four times your body weight. It's also too stretchy under load.

A lousy but possibly better option would be to tie a foothold-sized loop every couple of feet and climb down. You'd have to tie big loops to fit your skiboots in them, and you'd have to be 100% confident in your ability to correctly tie yourself off. Dynamic loads would be less, and if you had enough length to double it up it might work for one person, once. That person could then ski down and get help for anyone left behind on the chair.

Paracord is useful for a lot of things but for this scenario I'd much rather carry a PLB.

#219287 - 03/15/11 06:36 PM Re: Surviving a Chair Lift at a Ski Resort [Re: ireckon]
PackRat Offline

Registered: 09/23/05
Posts: 56
Not an unheard of situation.


Several friends have spent 6+ hours stuck on chairlifts in cold weather waiting for hill staff to rescue them so I have given this some thought.

If you are abandoned after hours then you are on your own and your best bet is probably a PLB as many hills will not have cell service. Your second option may be to attempt self rescue either by lowering yourself if you have a long enough rope or sliding down the cable to the nearest tower which would also require a rope and a lot of nerve.

When resort skiing I usually carry a small pack that rides high so that it does not interfere too much with the back of the chair. In the pack I carry:
- Down coat for upper body warmth
- Emergency bivy that I can put my legs in for a wind break and some warmth
- Large mits that will fit over my ski gloves
- Balaclava for my head
- Foam pad that I can sit on as many chairs have little insulation and a very cold seat.
- Snacks
- 30m of climbing cord, locking carabiners and climbing webbing that I can use if desperate to lower myself to the ground or to a point where a drop my not be so severe.

The plan is to dress warm and wait for the hill staff to rescue you.

#219289 - 03/15/11 06:51 PM Re: Surviving a Chair Lift at a Ski Resort [Re: PackRat]
ireckon Offline

Registered: 04/01/10
Posts: 1629
Loc: Northern California
Originally Posted By: PackRat
30m of climbing cord, locking carabiners and climbing webbing that I can use if desperate to lower myself to the ground or to a point where a drop my not be so severe.

Please explain how you'd do this, or point me to a website, thanks. I have never done anything like that before.

Originally Posted By: juhirvon
Actually. Now that I've wrote all that and took the photo, I'd probably just tie the paracord around me in an improvised harness and attach it to the cable with the carbineer. That way you don't fall if you slip as you crawl, not run, to the nearest tower.

Hmmm...I hadn't thought of this.
If you're reading this, it's too late.

#219292 - 03/15/11 07:21 PM Re: Surviving a Chair Lift at a Ski Resort [Re: ireckon]
dougwalkabout Offline
Crazy Canuck
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 2747
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Yes, strandings do occur. Either it's a mechanical failure or it's a goof-up by seasonal staff who are mostly there to ski/party.

These days, there is cell service in any ski area I can think of. It's more or less mandatory (whadda ya mean I can't watch gootube and rebalance my stock portfolio in between runs? I've seen better service in Afghanistan ... etc. etc. blah blah).

So I think your odds of being forgotten and being incommunicado for an extended period are pretty darn low.

Unless you're right against a tower, notions of abseiling down using scarves and bootlaces are, frankly, a fast way to turn a 'rescue' into a 'recovery.' Leave that to the movies, where it apparently works.

Otherwise, if you've been there for more than 24 hours and have a PLB, or less and it's intensely cold, it's probably appropriate to hit the switch.

But consider also that when the runs shut down, there are almost always hard-core locals in the lower areas xc-skiing and snowshoeing, well into dawn and dusk. Generally, they fart in the direction of the ski-resort-types; but if you're flicking your little LED light in threes from a gondola, they'll call it in.

My $0.02.

Edited by dougwalkabout (03/15/11 07:24 PM)

#219294 - 03/15/11 07:27 PM Re: Surviving a Chair Lift at a Ski Resort [Re: PackRat]
Paul810 Offline

Registered: 03/02/03
Posts: 1428
Loc: NJ, USA
I agree that a PLB is probably the way to go. It works where cellphones don't and it would lead to the safest possible rescue method (i.e. Someone coming back and turning the lift back on.)

Now, if you are hell-bent on rappelling down, there is micro-rappel equipment available out there. I have no experience with it, but from reviews I've read it seems to work (and the same system is sold from many other vendors).

Maxim Micro Rappel System

#219297 - 03/15/11 08:00 PM Re: Surviving a Chair Lift at a Ski Resort [Re: ireckon]
JBMat Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/03/09
Posts: 745
Loc: NC
Anyone see Mythbusters?

You are not sliding down the cable, unless you have a giant carabiner that fits over the cable. Even if you have one, there is the stopping issue. And the other seats in the way. Clothing did not work. Paracord will melt through, friction is a bear. So that idea is shot down really quickly.

You really can't rappel with 550 cord. Regardless of the rated weight, your body will generate more than the line can hold - each knot reduces the line's ability to hold weight. Start swinging, you generate more weight. That and you can't hold onto it, yada yada yada.

I mean, really - have the number for the resort on you. Lift stops, call them on your cell phone. Or call 911.

I've been at several places at night. The better ones have some poor schlub go out there and stop people from getting on the lift after a certain time. The times are posted, heed them. He makes note of the lift chair number where/when he started, and when it comes around again he knows no one is on the lift (pretty sneak huh? Guess who got to be the poor schlub a time or two?)

If you get caught on a ski lift, absent mechanical problems, someone screwed up and you probably had a small part in the screw up also.

#219298 - 03/15/11 08:00 PM Re: Surviving a Chair Lift at a Ski Resort [Re: ireckon]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6854
Loc: southern Cal
If you are actually concerned about this, you need to learn how to rappel. There is not that much difference between an "emergency rappel" and a relatively normal rappel. While I seriously doubt you will ever need this technique to escape from a ski lift, it is a broadly useful technique for dealing with steep terrain and it could well come in handy in other situations.

In order to rappel with any reasonable margin of safety, you will need to carry some minimum gear and you should learn several techniques so that you can employ whatever gear might be at hand. Also, learn some of the fundamentals of rock climbing and proper rope usage - sometimes you have to go up as well as down. Somewhere, sometime, some one should develop a course in "survival rock climbing and rope use."

It is interesting that skiers and snowboarders spend inadvertent overnights fairly often, typically as a result of skiing out of bounds. As far as I know, the cited instance of someone overnighting in a gondola is unique. Why not concern yourself with a situation that is statistically far more common?

Add a Heat Sheet and a couple of Esbit tabs to the gear have and you will be far better prepared to deal with what is more likely to happen.
Geezer in Chief

#219300 - 03/15/11 08:11 PM Re: Surviving a Chair Lift at a Ski Resort [Re: ireckon]
dweste Offline

Registered: 02/16/08
Posts: 2463
Loc: Central California
Or you could deal with the given scenario of facing 5 days midwinter in midair with no hope of outside recovery.

#219301 - 03/15/11 08:12 PM Re: Surviving a Chair Lift at a Ski Resort [Re: ireckon]
jzmtl Offline

Registered: 03/18/10
Posts: 530
Loc: Montreal Canada
Originally Posted By: ireckon
Yeah, it's out there, but let's just assume it's possible to get stranded. By the way, it has happened occasionally where a lift has gotten stuck and people are stranded for hours.

I've thought about the idea of climbing the cable to the closest tower, but I don't think that's as easy as it sounds. It would be freakin' scary as hell because it's way up there and everything metal would be slippery.

Yeah I've been stuck for half an hour or so, but at least there are tons of other suckers o the lift freezing their ass off too. laugh Oh and I forgot to say, after that, I keep a mylar space blanket in my pocket all the time. So if it happens again, I have something to keep the wind off me.

As far as climbing goes, use both your arm and legs like monkey does it, you won't even have to look down.

Originally Posted By: Russ
Also, climbing on steel cable is not like climbing a hemp rope. The occasional frayed wire will penetrate skin. Gloves will help from short ones, but they're not all short. BTDT

I've never ever seen a fray on lift cable. They are regularly inspected, with some sort of electromagnetic instrument even.

#219304 - 03/15/11 08:46 PM Re: Surviving a Chair Lift at a Ski Resort [Re: jzmtl]
MostlyHarmless Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 06/03/09
Posts: 982
Loc: Norway
Originally Posted By: jzmtl

As far as climbing goes, use both your arm and legs like monkey does it, you won't even have to look down.

Anyone who has tried climbing monkey style on a greasy steel cable that is inclined at a rather steep angle? I've done it for fun with ropes made of nice comfortable natural fibers of comparable diameter. They were also aligned in the horizontal direction. That was great fun and not really difficult (of course, I would not fall very far if I let go of the rope). I would not be inclined to try the same trick on a ski lift cable.

Realistically, I think your options are limited to
1) wait,
2) signal for help,
3) jump. Jumping imposes a great risk for injury. Which do you prefer - waiting for rescue while laying immobilized and in great pain in the snow, or waiting for rescue in the chair lift?

As several has pointed out, paracord isn't rappelling gear. If that is all you have, consider it as a form of jumping: At best, your paracord-rappelling attempt will bring you a few feet closer to the ground before it breaks. The result will be the same: You are immobilized and waiting for rescue beneath the chair lift, but at least you're 2 feet "less hurt" than if you had just jumped straight off.

I love to visit ski resorts. How do I prepare for the given scenario? By hydrating so my brain cells keep functioning. That should keep me from straying onto the wrong chair lift at the end of the day.

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