Gondolas. More popular in Europe than the United States, these large cable cars haul anywhere from a couple dozen to a hundred or more passengers at a time. There are two gondolas on an endless cable. The cars come to a full halt simultaneously, one at the base and the other at the sum-

mit, to load or discharge skiers. Eager skiers know they’re halfway to the top when the two. cars rumble past each other.

In addition to all its other lifts, Tignes, in the French Alps, also hauls skiers on an underground train, similar to the New York subway, to one major summit. The train never has to stop simply because of high winds or heavy snows.

Evacuation. When some grinning gremlin stops a lift with a mechanical or electrical breakdown, this is how the stalled passengers are removed. The gremlins work best, naturally, on cold days with high winds when every chair is filled with skiers. Such accidents are a rarity. But if, on the remote chance, it happens to you, not to worry. Sit still. Be patient. From one end of the resort to the other trained personnel, ski patrol members, and ski area staff are swiftly mobilizing to get you off safely.

On chairlifts evacuation is only a matter of slinging a rope over the cable, with a gaming chair on one end. The chair is hauled up to the level of the skiers. Each skier, in turn, slips onto the chair and is carefully lowered to the snow, given a broad pat on the back, something hot to drink, a free one-day pass, and then helped down the mountain. Only once in 20 years was I evacuated. The three-person chairlift jammed. It took the rescue teams two hours to reach our chair, while we swayed over a 60-foot chasm. We were the last ones evacuated. The three of us who’d gotten aboard as strangers became intimate, if chilled, friends, as we alternately joked, cried, shivered, prayed, and waved at our struggling rescuers while they emptied the chairs both in front of and behind us.

No skier on any type of lift at any ski area anywhere in the world of skiing has ever been left to sway forever in the windy skies when the lift suffered from paralysis. On rare occasions passionate skiers who grabbed a moving chair for one more run after a lift officially closed for the day have found themselves swaying all night on a lift that wouldn’t start moving until dawn.

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