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Stillwater junior Karl Gaertner is lowered from a ski lift after getting stranded in the air with teammates during a team practice on Monday, Feb. 5, prior to the Section 7 Meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik. (Contributed photo)

The Section 7 alpine ski meet on Tuesday, Feb. 6 went more smoothly than Stillwater’s practice session the previous day.

Twelve of the team’s 14 skiers were stranded high above the slopes at Giants Ridge after the chair lift stopped working on Monday morning.

“The chairs stopped and after like 20 minutes we were wondering what was going on,” said junior Karl Gaertner. “The ski patrol started to come up the hill and told us that everything was going to be fine, but we’d have to evacuate. We were one of the last chairs to get evacuated, so our toes were getting pretty cold.”

The evacuation was no simple procedure.

“First, they shoot a rope over the chair lift line and then raise up this chair you sat on and then they slowly lowered you down on the chair,” Gaertner said. “It was unexpected, but I knew the ski patrol knew what they were doing.”

It was calm, but temperatures hovered around 5 degrees.

“We were just trying to keep warm and distract ourselves from the situation,” Gaertner said. “I thought it was pretty fun getting lowered.”

Some of the Stillwater skiers were back on the ground within 20 minutes or so, but Ethan Barclay and alternate Austin Paseka spent nearly 90 minutes stranded in the air.

The disruption fortunately didn’t impact Stillwater’s performance on the slopes the next day as the Ponies claimed the boys’ and girls’ section titles by a comfortable margin.

“It was actually a good way to go into it with a different mindset,” Ponies coach Kevin Neubauer said. “Everybody hears section, but we tried to calm them down and say it’s just a race. It’s only what you make of it so just relax and make your run. In a way it kind of lightened the mood and they just relaxed. They didn’t get a ton of gate time in, but in a way it may have been a blessing to us.”

— Stuart Groskreutz

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