While enjoying a warm drink in Verbier’s Carlsberg restaurant, which sits at 2,500 metres, a group of us noticed that one of the chair lifts across from the restaurant wasn’t moving, and that most of the chairs had people on them. Two of our group had been turned away from this lift, that connects La Ruinette with La Chaux, when trying to board it about an hour earlier.
On our next ski run we heard a helicopter and saw people being rescued from the lift’s six-seat chairs and gondolas.
One local resident Alex told Le News “I was skinning with my dog and saw these snowmobiles hurtling around from Ruinettes to La Chaux and the helicopter buzzing around and so I knew something was wrong. I arrived at La Chaux and saw two men at a time being dropped onto chairlifts and harnessing themselves in, and then the helicopter was coming back and taking three people at a time plus one rescuer, and they were carted off dangling below to Ruinettes. I was pleased to be on my skins and skinned up the lift talking to most of those on the chairs. There were plenty of kids, and people were really cold after two hours. One person pleaded with me to speak with the lift staff as they were freezing.”
Temperatures were low. The forecast for tomorrow at La Ruinette is -8 C.
The Swiss Valais-based newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported that Jean-Luc Gfeller, the head technicien at Televerbier, said “Once the problem was found it was clear that repair would take too long and that we needed to focus on getting the skiers down.”
- The colorful history of Swiss mountain air rescue (Le News)
- Speeding skier convicted after hitting another skier on a piste at Verbier (Le News)
The newspaper also described how an Air Glacier helicopter was used, along with a cable dolly that enabled rescuers to move along the cable between the hanging chairs and gondolas to reach those stranded, to get people down. Two and a half hours were required to rescue the 15 people on the Verbier side and the 45 on the La Chaux side.
This video shows a snippet of the helicopter rescue:
Another video can be seen by clicking here.
This video of the lift ride in summer gives an idea of how high up some people were hanging:
The newspaper Le Matin reported that there was no frostbite but that some skiers were “very chilly”. Taken down to the half-way station of La Ruinette to warm up, they should receive compensation, the report added.
Comments on one Facebook page suggest compensation was a CHF 5 drinks voucher. One commented that it was “James Bond style rescue, third world compensation.” Another said “Apparently if you go and ask they will give you a days skiing.”
The website verbier.com tweeted at 9am on Monday that the lift was operating again.