Lesson Five: Getting On and Off the Lift


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We’ve received a lot of emails about this one. Seems some people are a heck of lot more anxious about getting on, off or HIT BY a chair lift than they are about the actual experience of skiing itself! However, think for just a sec about how tough and unpleasant your ski trip or on snow experience would be IF YOU HAD TO WALK UP the slope prior to every run! Trust me, you’d probably only make one or two runs. So approach the subject of the chair lift as your "friend". It’s there to HELP you!

There are Different Types of Lifts for various purposes. In this section we will look at some of the Most Common Types of Lifts and how they should be used by both Skiers and Snowboarders.

Nowadays, many ski resorts have gone a step further and installed new "Magic Carpet" conveyor lifts on beginner terrain. We first began seeing these at snow tubing hills and someone got the idea to add them on beginner terrain and that has been a welcome addition at ski resorts everywhere.

There’s nothing needed to learn on these. Simply stand on the conveyor and it will glide you to the top! Can’t be any easier than that! However we’ll probably never see these taking people to the top of a 3000′ vertical so let’s cover the rest!

Surface Lifts

Surface Lifts are used for shorter distances and on gentler slopes. They are the first Kind of Lifts that you will encounter when you start learning how to ski or snowboard at a lot of resorts that have yet to add the new Magic Carpet lifts.

Skiers can keep both Skis attached, snowboarders keep their front foot attached and have their back foot loose. There are different styles of Surface Lifts but they all work pretty similarly:

Rope Tows

They are the simplest Surface Lifts and consist of a loop of rope with knots that move around and around. When your turn comes up, move into position and let the rope run through your hands loosely. As a knot approaches grab the rope. Make sure to lean a bit backward so you won’t flip forward as you grab the rope. Now just keep hold of the rope as it moves you up.

J- and T-Bars

This is a Rotating Lift where there are wires running above the slope. Attached to the cable are many bars that you can grab. The bars are called either J- or T-Bars depending on its shape. With J-Bars you can grab the bar and place it behind you. In this way you don’t have to use your hands to hold onto the bar – you can just let the bar push you forward. T-Bars are quite similar to the J-Bars. Only it is designed to hold two people at the same time. Even though J- and T-Bars look a bit like chairs, make sure not to lean on them too much or you will fall. Note: Most resorts don’t want you to "ride" the J Bar…and they will expect you to grab it and basically hold onto it in front of you and allow it to PULL you up the hill.


Chairlifts are the Most Common Lifts on many Snow Resorts. Skiiers can keep both skis attached when riding Chairlifts. Snowboarders, on the other hand, should keep their front foot attached and have their back foot loose.

How to Ride On a Chairlift

To Ride On a Chairlift, stand in line in front of the Chairlift. A simple gate system makes sure that only the designated number of people gets on at a time. This is usually between 2-6 persons per chairlift.

As the gate opens, slide forward and wait for the Chairlift to come from behind while looking back.

You will gently be swooped into the chairs. Okay…sometimes the lift operator may have the thing cranked pretty fast…so gently might not be accurate.

Once you’re off the ground lower your lift bar so that you will be kept protected in the chair. Some chair lifts have a support for your skis/feet and some don’t. Once you’re comfortably in and the bar is lowered…chill out and enjoy the ride. Don’t purposely rock back and forth as that CAN (though rare) cause the lift cable to derail and that will make a chairlift stop.

For those FEARING the chairlift…don’t be concerned with the lift falling. Chair lifts malfunction from time to time…resulting in prolonged rides…but you’re far more likely to get hit by lightning than to have a chair fall off a cable. It just doesn’t happen.

How to Get Out of a Chairlift

As you approach the exit platform, Lift the top bar together with the others in your Chairlift and get ready to unload the Chairlift. DON’T lean forward or scoot your rear to the edge of the seat. That is not necessary and that can actually cause you to fall prior to actually getting off the lift on your own accord.

The simplest way to dismount is to put down your skis or snowboard and simply let them glide over the landing platform. When you feel your balance, simply stand up and slide away from the loading platform. A common mistake that beginners make is to STOP as soon as they have successfully gotten off a lift and stand in the way of the next riders as they attempt to dismount. THAT will cause a traffic jam! So make sure to move a safe distance away from the landing platform. This will keep other people from bumping against you when you exit the Lift.

Some resorts unfortunately make the beginner unloading platforms pretty steep to make it such that beginners kind of fall out of the way. Regardless, the unloading ramp is really nothing to fear and after a time or two you’ll master this rather easy part of the skiing experience.

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