What a way to start the New Year.
A lift mishap left a skier at Vail hanging from the lift, half naked.
The chairlift's fold-down seat may not have been in the correct position, which caused the man to partially fall through the resulting gap, according to the Smoking Gun Web site.
The Web site said the man's right ski got jammed in the chairlift, the man's pants got stuck on the chair, so he ended up hanging from the lift with his pants down as the lift ascended the hill.
Skiers near the Skyline Express lift took several pictures showing the half-naked man hanging upside down without his pants. Those uncensored pictures are on the Smoking Gun's Web site
The lift was stopped shortly after the botched boarding but it took workers about 15 minutes to back the lift and rescue the man.
"Lift operators immediately stopped the lift and Vail Ski Patrol was called to the scene. Lift mechanics were able to reverse the lift approximately 10 to 12 feet, at which point the man was released. He was not injured," said Vail Resorts spokeswoman Liz Biebl in a news release issued on Tuesday.
The man has not been identified and is not recognizable in the photos on the Smoking Gun Web site. Vail Resorts told 7NEWS that the 48-year-old skier was "suspended for approximately seven minutes."
Biebl did not explain what happened during boarding other than to say that the skier "attempted to load a chair" when he was "caught on the chair and was suspended."
The story, and photo, were first published by the Vail Daily News last Saturday.
A professional photographer who took some of the photos was suspended by a Vail photography company specializing in taking photos of skiers.
Marty Odom, a photographer for Sharpshooters, was not working at the time he took the photos.
"I was out on my own with my own camera, so I didn't think it was a big deal," Odom told the Vail Daily News. "I thought it was going to be the photo of the New Year."
He was suspended Monday.
"I guess it embarrassed Vail Resorts, and they called (my) shop," he told the newspaper.
Odom said the skier seemed in good spirits when he finally got off the lift, and everyone applauded when the rescue was successful.
He said he hasn't been allowed to sell the photograph, despite fielding calls from around the world, because his contract with Sharpshooters contains a "no-compete" clause.
Read more of Odom's interview in the Vail Daily News.
On Thursday, Sharpshooters issued a statement on the incident that said:
On January 1, 2009, a SharpShooter Imaging employee took an image of a skier in distress at Vail Mountain. Fortunately, we understand this skier was not injured, for which we are all grateful.
SharpShooter Imaging deeply regrets any embarrassment the unauthorized taking and subsequent release of this photograph may have caused to the guest involved, and all other guests and employees of Vail Resort. It is our strict company policy to respect the privacy of all resort guests at every resort we represent. The employee who breached company policy while on duty, by his unauthorized release of this image, has been suspended while the incident is investigated.
SharpShooter Imaging will continue to protect the privacy of its guests and investigate this incident to ensure this does not happen again. SharpShooter Imaging is dedicated to have every employee adhere to company policy, fully respect the privacy of all guests, and demonstrate the highest ethical behavior at all times."
The story gained worldwide coverage since it was first published on the Vaily Daily News Web site. "Naked skier" appeared at No. 2 Wednesday morning on Google Trends, a Web site that measures relative popularity spikes in search terms.
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