Wind strands over 1,400 at Niigata ski resort

NIIGATA (Kyodo) Strong wind forced a gondola line to shut down at a ski resort in Yuzawa, Niigata Prefecture, leaving about 1,450 people stranded at a mountain rest house Saturday night, but no one was hurt and all had descended by Sunday morning.

About 80 people were stranded in 12 gondolas when operations were suspended at around 9 p.m. Saturday at the Gala Yuzawa ski resort. Everyone in the gondolas was able to return to the foot of the mountain within about three hours as the cars were brought down during periods when the wind subsided.

Police said one woman complained of nausea but did not have to be hospitalized.

The gondola line transports passengers between JR Gala Yuzawa Station at the foot of the mountain and a gondola terminal on the mountainside. The rest house is adjacent to the terminal.

According to resort officials, the speed of the gondola line was reduced just before 4 p.m. when many skiers typically start descending. Operations were stopped at around 9 p.m. when wind speeds had reached 72 kph.

Full operations were resumed just past midnight, bringing down a majority of those stranded at the rest house by 3 a.m., and the remaining 100 or so people descended by around 8 a.m.

“We waited for more than three hours outside in the cold and we and the people around us were irritated because we didn’t know what was going on,” said Fumihiro Matano, 26, of Tokyo, who was there to snowboard with friends.

The ski resort, accessible within two hours from JR Tokyo Station by train, decided not to open for business Sunday due to the problems Saturday.