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Kicking Horse gondola evacuated after electrical failure gives snowboarders 'insane ride'

Some guests at a B.C. ski resort got an unexpected thrill ride when an electrical failure shut down a gondola — forcing rescuers to strap them into harnesses, then dangle them on a rope dozens of metres above the treetops and snowy peak to airlift them to safety.

Rescuers must 'practise like crazy' for high-altitude helicopter rescues like this, resort says

A member of the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort Safety Team enters the gondola to rescue passengers on Jan. 3. (Kody Lapointe/YouTube screenshot)

Some guests at a B.C. ski resort got an unexpected thrill ride when an electrical failure shut down a gondola — forcing rescuers to strap them into harnesses, then dangle them on a rope dozens of metres above the treetops and snowy peak to airlift them to safety.

Crews had to rescue about 75 people on the Golden Eagle Express gondola at the resort near Golden on Sunday. Some who were on higher sections of the lift had to be rescued by helicopter.

Kody Lapointe, 16, was one of those airlifted off the gondola with his dad, Manny. Lapointe, who uploaded the video of his rescue to YouTube, said he and his dad were "insanely excited" after realizing they'd be rescued by helicopter. 

"They dropped the rescue down on top of our gondola and he put us in parachute-type things, hooked us to the rope and off we went out the door up in the air," he said over email. 

 

The short trip took him high over the mountain resort just as the sun was setting, dropping him and his father off at the hilltop lodge. 

"We would like to thank the rescuers for their amazing efforts and their efficiency in getting us, as well as everyone else, to safety as quickly as possible," said Lapointe, who called it an "insane ride" on YouTube.

Rescuers 'practise like crazy' for challenge like this

An electrical transformer went down around 3 p.m., said Matt Mosteller, a spokesman for hill owner Resorts of the Canadian Rockies.

"We went through all of the safety procedures and protocol on the lift, and because of the transformer, the way it blew, it also blew all of the restart safety mechanisms," he said. 

"So we then decided the best plan of action was to follow our emergency evacuation. So we started evacuation of the lift at 4 p.m."

The shutdown comes days after the Goat's Eye chairlift at Sunshine Village was evacuated.

Mosteller says this hasn't happened before, at least not under the current ownership, but that it's something the rescue teams train for.

"That's a very highly skilled routine. You can't just do that overnight. You've got to practise like crazy to make sure it's done right," he said.

As of 5 p.m. on Monday, the gondola was still out of service.

"The plan is to have it operational for tomorrow and people should check the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort snow report for updates," said Mosteller.

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