Monday, September 30, 2013

Volunteering to Be Evacuated from a Gondola

Every fall for the past few years, the Breckenridge Ski Area has had a gondola evacuation practice day. They sign up about 150 volunteers to load into gondolas and ride up the mountain. Then they stop the gondola line once the whole uphill side is loaded and start evacuating people. My husband volunteered to be evacuated last year when I was busy with another event, and this year the reverse happened--he was busy and I could volunteer.

I arrived at the base of the gondola lift at 9 AM, signed a waiver, and listened to instructions along with the other volunteers, children and dogs included. Then I rode up with my gondola-mates in my gondola until the line stopped. We were left hanging between the stations at the bases of Peak 7 and Peak 8, so we weren't as high up in the air as those who were hanging over the Cucumber Gulch Open Space. We watched a pair of ski patrollers, one on the ground and one working in the air, evacuate people from another gondola, then it was our turn.

Below are photos from our evacuation:

In the photo above, a ski patroller is climbing up the nearest pole to our gondola, and in the next photo, he's standing at the top of the pole and hooking onto the cable, preparing to slide along it the short distance to where our gondola was hanging.

After reaching the roof of our gondola, he told us to back away from the door, then released it and swung himself down and inside. The folks sitting on the ground behind him had just been evacuated from another gondola and were watching us get evacuated. The ski patroller gave us instructions on what he was going to do, then began the evacuation procedure.

Each of us was outfitted with a sling (called "the diaper") that went around our waist and through our legs and was attached to the lowering line. I'm wearing the diaper below.

Then we were each lowered to the ground out of the gondola door. You see me leaving the gondola in the first photo and another passenger being lowered in the second.

After lowering all the occupants, the ski patroller went back up to the roof, resecured the door, and slid along the cable to the next gondola to repeat the process.

The evacuation practice was interesting, educational, and fun for the volunteers, and it's good to know that the patrollers are well-trained in the whole process in case the gondola ever stops during the winter. Plus, we got a free barbecue lunch after it was all over. If I'm available, I'll definitely sign up to do it again next year!

1 comment:

August McLaughlin said...

You are one brave woman! Seems like a great event and cause. I'm just glad I only experienced it vicariously. ;) (Water phobe here!)