Tourist trapped on ski lift, burns cash to attract attention


German tourist stuck on a ski lift for six hours in the Austrian Alps saved himself by burning bank notes to attract attention.

Dominik Podolsky, 22, from Munich, was taking the lift down the mountain when he was trapped alone some 10 meters above ground in temperatures of minus 18 degrees Celsius (0 degrees Fahrenheit) after the ski lift was switched off for the day, shortly after 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon in the Hochzillertal resort.

He had forgotten to take his mobile phone and his shouts for help were drowned out by the engine noise of distant snowcats. “I thought about jumping down but then I’d have probably broken both legs and would have frozen to death,” Podolsky told reporters.

His Last €20 Note

The hours passed and it got dark and increasingly cold. Podolsky, who had done his military service with a mountain regiment, remembered what his trainers had taught him about fighting off hypothermia. He stuck his hands under his armpits and tensed his muscles, but his limbs eventually started to go numb and he kept on falling asleep.

It was then that he thought of burning paper handkerchiefs and the contents of his wallet with a cigarette lighter. He started with business cards and restaurant bills and then moved on to cash. A total of €80 to €100 ($110 to $135) had gone up in flames when he set fire to his last €20 note. That’s when a snowcat driver spotted him and raised the alarm.

Podolsky was freed half an hour later, at 10:30 p.m., and taken to hospital where he was treated for hypothermia. He was able to take the train home that night.

He said he may sue the lift operator for failing to check the lift after shutting it down. But a spokesman for the company said it wasn’t meant for downward trips, and that Podolsky must have ignored warning signs and barriers to get on.