The Basque region’s top conservative politician was one of around 1,000 people to be evacuated from the top of Panticosa ski station in Huesca after winds of up to 110 kilometers per hour forced resort managers to shut down the ski lifts.
Antonio Basagoiti, leader of the Popular Party in the Basque Country, was taken down to the lower part of the station on a snowplow during the night, as were all the other skiers stranded at the top of Panticosa, a popular resort in the Pyrenees. The vacationers were celebrating the New Year when they found themselves trapped in the Petrosos area of the resort.
The evacuation ended at 8am on Thursday, said a spokesperson for the company that runs the resort, Aramón. However, the Civil Guard said that there were still around 40 skiers waiting to be brought down at that time.
Basagoiti told SER radio station that he was isolated at an altitude of around 2,000 meters for 13 hours, until a snowmobile finally brought him down to base.
The politician said the rescue operation began with the youngest children
“I can now say that I have been rescued,” he joked in reference to the economic bailout on the horizon for Spain.
The politician added that the rescue operation began with the youngest children among the stranded skiers. Basagoiti and his family, including his four-year-old child, were taken down at 4am.
“We spent 13 hours isolated at a 2,000-meter altitude, but there are considerably worse and tougher things in life than that,” he wrote on the social-networking site Twitter. “Other people have it worse.”
The group of holidaymakers became cut off from the rest of the resort around 3pm, when all ski lifts and cabins came to a full stop because of the gusty winds. After being brought down to the bottom, evacuees were taken to the nearby municipalities of Hoz de Jaca and Panticosa. Around 300 more experienced skiers were able to ski or walk down in the company of resort monitors.
The Aramón spokesperson said there were no incidents to report beyond the fatigue of the long wait. Civil Guard officers, firefighters, health workers and local residents of Hoz de Jaca and Panticosa spent all night working to help the stranded skiers.
One of the last evacuees told TVE that, at first, there was not enough room for everyone inside the closed facilities, and it was decided that only women and children would be allowed in. “There was a lot of wind and it was cold,” she told the state broadcaster. Rather than fear, she said that people felt “uncertainty” at not knowing when exactly they would be taken down to safety.
The Panticosa resort remained closed throughout Thursday. At press time, Aramón had yet to confirm whether the station would reopen on Friday.
Opened 42 years ago, Panticosa is one of Spain’s oldest stations, although recent reform work has turned it into one of the country’s most modern skiing facilities.