Friday, January 4, 2013

Uplifting stories

Probably everyone who has ever used a  chairlift has wondered what would happen if it stopped while you were on it, and you were left hanging there for the night. Would you survive? Would you try and jump? Would you try and climb out and shimmy along the cable to the next pylon? From time-to-time one reads about people to whom this has happened, but it is certainly unusual for someone to choose to climb onto a chairlift in the middle of the night.

However, according to Le Dauphiné this morning a drunken scotsman did exactly this  in the wee small hours of Thursday morning. 'Aided by alcohol', to paraphrase the article, a 21 year old Scottish holiday-maker decided to climb up a pylon of the Rogoney lift in Val d'Isere and settle into one of the chairs. He apparently wanted to admire the view over the village.

A passing police patrol spotted him and tried to find out if he was OK, but he had fallen fast asleep. Lots of shouting, throwing of snowballs and the subsequent wailing of sirens as the turntable ladder from Tignes was summoned failed to arouse the inebriated tourist. Eventually the pompiers managed to lift him into the ladder's cage and return him safely to terra firma, where his companion evidently shed tears of relief!.  An hour or so later, at 6 am they had to be shoe-horned onto a bus to Geneva to fly back to Edinburgh, where no doubt he has quite a hangover but probably can't remember anything of the aerial drama.

Chairlift accidents and incidents are thankfully rare, the most recent one I can think of in Les Arcs involved a child falling from the Combettes lift a few seasons ago. Fortunately he wasn't badly hurt (the beginning of this lift is not very high off the ground)  although a major investigation was carried out. Many of the chairlifts used by ski school and children now have 'Childsafe' gadgets on the cross-bar to avoid this happening.

It's not only chairlifts that can cause problems. About 20 years ago in Les Menuires a child was badly loaded into the Roc des Marches telecabine and managed to fall out, hanging upside-down suspended only by a ski boot jammed between the doors. The lift was stopped but no one knew what to do; the lift couldn't be reversed for fear of crushing the pendulous child. Eventually someone got hold of a step-ladder and they managed to get him down, unscathed. There was a subsequent criminal investigation, resulting in the lift operators on duty at the time getting a 3 month prison sentence.

So next time an instructor asks you to accompany a small child on a lift remember, it's quite a responsibility!

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