A ski lift at Canada's famed Lake Louise resort malfunctioned Sunday, trapping about 65 people in gondolas for hours as darkness fell and temperatures dropped below freezing.
When the resort could not get the lift working again, ski patrollers rescued the stranded passengers by traversing the cable using rescue equipment in a feat one witness likened to a James Bond movie. Resort officials said the most severe injuries were a few cases of frostbite.
Jon-Henry Vanderwerf, 10, was alone in one gondola for three hours with his 9-year-old brother, Luke. "It was scary, it was cold and the wind was blowing the car from side to side," he said.
Eight teams of ski patrollers attached self-propelled pulley units to the gondola's cable to reach the individual cabins, officials said. They then hooked cables and harnesses around the trapped passengers and lowered them to the ground.
The evacuees were taken off the mountain by snowmobile or snow cat.
"These guys knew what they were doing. They made sure we were okay," said Olga Elman, 47, of Houston, who was lowered by harness about 130 feet to the ground.
"I've skied for 25 years and never, ever, ever -- I never expected anything like this," she said.
Daniel Ulmer and Ralf Schmeckenbecher, German photographers who were riding the gondola after covering the World Cup ski races that had just ended, said they were stuck for more than 41/2 hours.
"We had barely gotten on the gondola when it stopped," Schmeckenbecher said, adding their rescuer "came down the pulley thing like James Bond."
Michael Guiffre, a cardiologist whose 15- and 10-year old sons were among those on the gondola, said the rescue plan was only initiated after people had been stuck for two hours.