California, US – A woman’s relaxing ski trip turned into a freezing nightmare when she became trapped overnight in a ski lift gondola, forcing her to rub her extremities to fend off frostbite in the bitter cold.

Monica Laso and her friends embarked on a fun getaway to Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe, California, looking forward to shredding some slopes. However, what was supposed to be a delightful winter vacation ended up being 15 hours of “sheer torture” when Laso attempted to take the gondola down the mountain alone. Mere minutes after boarding the lift around 4:45 pm, it ground to a halt, leaving Laso suspended in frigid air with no phone and no way to call for help.  

“I screamed desperately until I lost my voice,” Laso told reporters, describing the horrific experience. With temperatures plummeting to 23 degrees Fahrenheit overnight, Laso had to fight to stay warm, vigorously rubbing her hands and feet to keep frostbite at bay inside the frozen gondola cabin.   

Laso’s friends grew worried when they could not reach her and reported her missing. However, it was not until the next morning around 9:30 am when the lift began operating again that employees realized a passenger had been trapped overnight. Officials rushed to the scene to check on Laso’s condition.  

“I felt frustrated. It was sheer torture,” Laso said, angry about the blatant safety lapses that led to her terrifying entrapment. “The safety and wellbeing of guests should be management’s top priority.”

Heavenly Mountain Resort declined to explain why the lift was apparently running after hours when the incident occurred, raising questions about the company’s safety procedures. At least management feigned remorse about the dramatic ordeal.  

“We are investigating this situation with the utmost seriousness,” said Tom Fortune, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Heavenly Mountain Resort. However, officials fell short of actually apologizing for the egregious failure that put Laso’s life at risk.

While Laso thankfully survived her frozen imprisonment, others in similar situations have not been so lucky. In particular, the harrowing experience calls to mind a notorious Christmas Day accident in 2006 when three German tourists tragically froze to death in their stranded gondola after attempts to rescue them failed.  

Laso’s Overnight Ordeal Highlights Gondola Safety Lapses

Laso’s terrifying experience draws attention to alarming vulnerabilities in ski lift safety protocols:

  • She boarded lift at 4:45 pm, after posted closing time of 4 pm 
  • Lift stopped operating soon after, leaving her trapped overnight
  • She lacked phone to call for help while suspended high above ground
  • Temperatures dropped to dangerous 23° F, risking frostbite/hypothermia
  • Staff failed to realize she was missing and trapped for 15 hours 
  • No safety checks conducted of lift cabin before shutting operations 
  • Heavenly decline to explain why lift was operating after hours
  • No safety features to prevent entrapment or facilitate evacuation

Laso Case Mirrors 2006 Fatal Gondola Accident

In light of Laso’s traumatic ordeal, the ski industry must confront its shoddy safety record. A similar incident in 2006 had tragic consequences, amplifying alarm over half-hearted protections:

Table 1. Comparisons Between Laso and 2006 Fatal Gondola Cases

Monica Laso 20232006 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Accident
Time stuckStuck for 15 hoursStuck for 9 hours
TemperatureTemperature dropped to 23° FTemperature dropped below -5° F
OutcomeSurvived despite frustration3 passengers died, wife witnessed husband’s death
CommunicationScreamed desperately with no rescueRadio communication failed
Lift OperationUnknown why lift operating after hoursLift meant to be out of service
Safety ChecksNo safety checks before shutdownNo safety checks before New Year’s holiday

Both cases reveal grievous neglect for passenger welfare and nonexistent contingency planning. Ski resorts seem to view catastrophic failure as an acceptable risk, rather than ensuring fail-safe back-up systems. Despite glaring process deficiencies that stranded Laso overnight without survival necessities, Heavenly maintains the accident merited basic internal review. Even brushing off accountability, let alone implementing preventative safeguards to avoid essentially kidnapping customers in subzero suspension.  


Monica Laso survived a harrowing 15-hour overnight entrapment on a ski lift that stopped operating in frigid 23 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. Her frightening ordeal highlights glaring safety issues with ski resort gondolas that frequently malfunction, trapping passengers in precarious situations without survival tools. Laso was lucky to escape unscathed, but past accidents have proved fatal when chairlift systems fail.