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Ode to a Chairlift

Charlie Walker August 7, 2022 219 5


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Ode to a Chairlift

Gotta Get Up To Get Down

Every year we lose another one. One of the greats. A piece of history that made us who we are. Yes, that’s right, I am talking about chairlifts. Each year, it’s out with the old and in with the new. Not saying it’s wrong entirely. And it’s not that I don’t get it. But, change isn’t always better, and change is hard. This summer, Vail alone will be installing 19 new chairlifts across 14 resorts in the name of “enhancing the guest experience”. However, don’t let them fool you for one second. This isn’t a $320 altruistic investment. It’s about bigger, better, faster more. And sadly that’s coming at the expense of some great chairlifts.

Whether you like it or not, riding chairlifts, is essentially half of the resort skiing and riding experience, if not more. So the ride up should be embraced and cherished as much as the ride down.

Silverton
When there’s one good one, sometimes that’s all you need. (Photo cred Silverton Mountain Resort @silvertonmtn)

Take In The Sights

Often times the best views of the entire mountain are on chairlifts. You’re up in the air, sometimes above the trees, and depending on the ride even above the clouds. And for a sport where half the fun is going downhill as fast and as rad as you can, this is your opportunity to slow down, and take it all in. Get cold. Take that icy wind to the face. Let the flurries frost up your beard and let it awaken all your senses. Because while you’re immersing yourself in the aesthetic beauty of the mountains, you can also be securing some serious intel.

The sights and sounds from a chairlift aren’t just good for the soul. They’re also good for the shred. There is reason for the downward trek to be had at every vantage point. While skiing you become one with the snow, but on a chairlift, you become one with the trail map. It’s a grounding point from bottom to top to scope where the best runs, conditions, and hidden gems lay. Listen to the crunch of the snow as riders drop below. See through the trees where their branches hide untouched stashes three days after a storm. Find dips and lips, chutes and natural kickers that aren’t marked with colored squares, circles, and diamonds.

Take in the sights and take in everything around you, and everything you are about to enjoy. A great run can fly by in seconds, but a chairlift is on its own time, and that time is just for you!

KT-22
If a picture is worth 1000 words, think how many words the chairlift itself is worth. (📷:Miles Clark/@SnowBrains)

Humans

Skiing is a solitary sport. But clichés like, “no friends on a powder day” are bullshit. If you’re at a resort, there are going to be people, likely too many of them. But, just like variable ski conditions, it can be part of the fun. Chairlifts can and should be a place to commune with like-minded people with a shared love for snow.

Tune out your airpods or if you’re a garbage human turn off your goddamn backpack speaker and talk to humans on chairlifts. New to the mountain? Ask your chair-mate’s favorite run, where the best snow is, where they’re from, or just be a decent human and say hello or good morning. You’re the local expert, help impart your wisdom and share any of the above. Talk about skiing for god sake. Not saying each ride is going to find you a bestie for life, but a little chairlift chat is a good thing, and dying art.

Don’t forget the lifties. They too in many cases as it turns out are human beings. Sometimes hungover, often stoned, minimum wage making humans. So say thank you, good morning, give a thumbs up or even a nod. Without them, these lifts ain’t running.

Live and Let Ride

While the eight-pack chairlifts of tomorrow, may read like an Onion article, they are coming. They’ll have heated seats and I just know touch screens with ads are just behind on the next chair. So as we head into another ski season, do yourself a favor, and show a little love to that old slow chairlift at your home hill. It’s skiing. We have plenty of other stuff to complain about; ticket prices, overcrowding, paid parking, $20 mediocre burgers. So cut chairlifts a break, especially ones from a by-gone era. Embrace each loading and unloading with the youthful enthusiasm of a child on an amusement park ride. Take a moment and slow down with the chair. It’s one of the few places we can anymore. And like many of the best things in life, we won’t appreciate them until their gone. Just remember to keep your tips up, and live and let ride!

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