KETCHUM, Idaho — The five terrifying minutes an 8-year-old boy spent dangling from a central Idaho chairlift were all that ski patrollers needed to move a lift-tower pad beneath him to break his fall.
The youngster, who had apparently slipped out of his coat and off the chair at Sun Valley’s Bald Mountain ski area, was uninjured Sunday and resumed skiing only hours later, KTVB-TV in Boise reported.
Sun Valley ski guide Kent Kreitler and other witnesses credited fast thinking by the mountain’s rescue team for saving the boy from injury.
As the boy dangled precariously from the lift, ski patrollers had time to unhook a 5-foot by 5-foot safety pad from a nearby lift tower, Kreitler said. They held it beneath him on a flat, hard-packed trail meant for skiers and grooming equipment to travel about the mountain, blunting the force of impact.
“We were able to use some large pads in sort of a fireman’s catch style,” patrol supervisor Bryant Dunn said.
Kreitler said he believes the boy slipped out of his jacket while riding up the 11,942-foot mountain on a high-speed, four-person ski lift, known on the mountain as “Christmas Chair.”
There were three other people on the lift, according to a photo Kreitler posted of the incident on his Facebook page.
He said lift personnel had put the ski lift in reverse and were backing the chair down the mountain when the youngster plunged.
In all, five member of the ski patrol participated in the rescue on Bald Mountain, which is the same ski area where then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger broke his leg while skiing in December 2006.
The youngster, whose name wasn’t released, shook off the incident.
“He was up bright and early skiing with his father on Baldy this morning,” Dunn told KTVB on Monday.
Jack Sibbach, a spokesman for Sun Valley Co., said the resort is always proud of the hard work accomplished by its ski patrol in helping keep skiers safe — and getting them help in instances when something does go wrong.
“Most importantly, we’re very grateful that the young boy is safe,” Sibbach said, adding that while the lift does have a safety bar for riders to pull down in front of them, he’s not certain if the group riding the lift with the young boy had pulled it down.