Twenty Rescued from Ski Lift in High Winds

Twenty people were rescued from a chairlift at the Hlíðarfjall ski area outside Akureyri on Friday afternoon, RÚV reports. The lift stalled when the wire was blown off its spool by a strong blast of wind, stranding about 20 people mid-air for close to two hours. Luckily, the area’s Search and Rescue crew was able to get everyone to safety and no one was injured in the process.

Weather conditions are assessed at ski areas every day to determine if it’s safe to open. But while conditions weren’t ideal at Hlíðarfjall on Friday, the wind wasn’t initially so strong that it was thought unsafe to ski and snowboard. By the afternoon, however, the weather had taken a turn for the worse.

From noon, the wind started to pick up again, and it was decided to stop letting people in the lift at 12:30,” explained a post on the Hlíðarfjall Facebook page. “There were still 21 people on the lift. Our chairlifts have built-in wind protection that slows down and stops the lift at certain wind speeds. An attempt was made to drive the lift slowly backwards in the hope of evacuating it, but as the wind continued to increase, it did not work and the lift came to a complete stop.

The Súlur Search and Rescue team used special equipment to rescue those who had been stranded on the chairlift in high winds. Image via the Hlíðarfjall Akureyri Facebook page.

It was then that Search and Rescue and police were called, explained Hlíðarfjall director Brynjar Helgi Ásgeirson. Ski area staff regularly train in ski lift rescues, but the wind, which had reached 20 m/s [44.7 mph], made the process much more difficult.

Luckily, everyone on the lift was back on the ground within two hours of it stopping. Australian Andrew Davis was one of those rescued from the lift. He told reporters that everyone who was stuck kept calm, and no one seemed to be in too bad a shape, though the wind was battering them about.

Andrew said he did consider jumping from the lift, as he was confident he could have stuck the landing. But in the end, he decided to wait it out, and saluted the Search and Rescue team for their fast work. Two 13-year-old girls were also amongst the stranded, but Bynjar Helgi said they were “quite upbeat” when they made it back to the ground.

After the rescue, those who had been stranded were offered trauma counselling, although no one chose to take it. What everyone did want, however, was the hot chocolate that ski area staff had waiting for them. “After a short while and some hot cocoa, people were smiling and putting this down to experience,” said Brynjar Helgi.

Hlíðarfjall was closed on Saturday due to unsafe weather conditions. To check current conditions and look at the area’s web cams (in English), see the Hlíðarfjall website, here.

Stricter Regulations Take Effect At Border, Relaxed Restrictions At Ski Areas

skiing ski lift Iceland

Stricter infection prevention regulations took effect at the border today, requiring all passengers on their way to Iceland to present a negative result of a PCR-test, no more than three days old, at their point of departure. The measures are intended to preserve the low rates of infection Iceland is currently experiencing. That success means that new regulations for ski areas, also taking effect today, allow more visitors and food sales to restart.

The stricter regulations at the border went into effect at midnight. All arriving passengers are now required to present a negative PCR-test at their point of departure, no more than 72-hours old. In addition, travellers will be tested on arrival and have to go into a five-day quarantine and be tested again. Iceland is the 14th European country to require a negative PCR-test before departure.

The first passengers to arrive after the new regulation took effect came from Boston this morning. RÚV reports that the new regulations increased waiting times at the airport and that reviewing the documents was time-consuming. All passengers were aware that they needed to provide the certificate of a negative PCR-test but about a quarter of passengers on the first plane weren’t able to procure such a certificate in time for their flight. Icelanders who don’t present a negative test result before departure will be allowed to enter the country but can expect a fine. According to the constitution, no Icelandic citizen can be denied entry to Iceland. According to border guards, they won’t start issuing fines until Monday at the earliest.

The new regulations also give authorities the power to require arriving passengers to spend their quarantine at quarantine hotels. This might be applied to people who can’t disclose where they intend to spend their quarantine and those who test positive for variants of the virus that are more infectious than others.

For the past month, only one case of the virus was caught outside of quarantine. As a result, authorities are slowly relaxing restrictions domestically but Chief epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has stated that in order to do so, we must make sure that new infections don’t cross the border. He has also stated that the new restrictions at the border will provide us with valuable data, such as if adding the requirement for a negative test before departure will eliminate the need for the second test in Iceland and consequently, the five-day quarantine period in between tests.

The new regulations for ski resorts will allow them to operate at 50% capacity. They will also be able to resume selling food and drinks. Children born in 2005 or later are not included in the number of people allowed but a social distance of two metres is still required.