SNOWMASS - An 8-year-old boy from New Zealand was saved from probable serious injury Friday when ski patrollers at Snowmass Ski Area used a lift tower pad to break his 25-foot fall from a chairlift, Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle said.
The boy was riding the Village Express six-pack chairlift with his parents shortly before 9:30 a.m. when he started falling out of the chair after loading, Hanle said. His parents were hanging onto the lad as their chair progressed up the hill. An operator of the adjacent Skycab, also known as the Skittles gondola because of the brightly colored cabins, saw the incident unfolding and called the lift operations office, Hanle said. He told them to stop the Village Express lift and alert the ski patrol of the situation.
The New Zealand family's chair stopped about 20 feet shy of lift tower seven, with the boy dangling down and his parents holding onto him, Hanle said. Ski patrol members were on snowmobiles in the area and others were coming out of the base locker room nearby when the call for help came. Five patrollers scrambled to the lift tower, unhooked the safety pad wrapped around the tower base and positioned the pad under the boy.
"They held it out there like a fire blanket," Hanle said.
The parents let go of the boy when the patrol gave the word, according to Hanle. The boy fell about 25 feet onto the pad. He was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital by a Snowmass Village ambulance crew as a precaution. Hanle said the boy was checked and released to his family within a short period.
"They're happy everything turned out OK and they're back out on the hill skiing," Hanle said.
It is uncertain what occurred to cause the fall. Hanle said the lift operators reported that they came in behind the chair during loading time and helped the youngster onto the chair. They felt he was positioned correctly so they turned to attend to the next riders, he said.
The boy's mother told Skico officials there was a problem with loading.
"She felt he was never fully seated," Hanle said.