First off… what is a “Lifty?” A Lifty is what we call a Ski Lift Operator. They’re those guys and gals that stand by the buttons and occasionally yell at you to move all the way up to the green line to load the ski lift. During the winter of 2021/2022, I worked as a Lifty in Park City, Utah.
The day starts off bright and early with booting up, grabbing your gear, and trudging over to the morning meeting. This is where we yawn, crack open the Redbulls, and exchange pleasantries. We listen to the agenda and focus for the day, then hop on the ski lift. From here we split up and ski down to our respective lifts. At our lift, the foreman (the supervisor for two lifts) will tell us where we will start the day off, either at the top or bottom of one of the two lifts.
Responsibilities and tasks of a Lifty consist of operating the lift, ensuring guest safety, and maintaining the loading or landing zone. After about an hour of morning safety checks and opening procedures, we are ready to open to the public. Throughout the rest of the day, there is a constant flow of people loading and unloading the lift.
At the bottom of the lift, the Lifty continually maintains the approach and runway to the loading zone. This consists of raking the runway to be perfectly level and maintaining the right amount of slope leading up to it in order to minimize accidents. While doing this, it is crucial that we watch every person that loads the lift and use our best judgment to either slow the lift, stop it, or let it run at a normal pace. If there is an accident, it is the Lifty’s responsibility to stop the lift and assist the down persons.
At the top, the ramp requires much more attention. We need to maintain the approach to be the perfect shape and height in order to ensure that nobody gets the tips of their skis stuck. The ramp needs to be free of bumps or divots and the perfect amount of steepness. Too steep, and the beginners will fall; too mild and the beginners will not have enough speed to evacuate the area before the next chair unloads. To keep this perfect ratio, we need to do “snow work,” shoveling and moving snow, through the entirety of the day.
Along with these chores, we need to watch every single person unload the lift. We must anticipate their ski level and adjust the lift speed accordingly. If someone does fall, it is critical that we slow or stop the lift immediately to help them up before the next skiers arrive. Additionally, we need to ensure that everyone actually gets off the lift. Sometimes people want to take a joy ride around the lift, which is majorly frowned upon by Ski Resort safety rules.
Most importantly, the ski breaks. Most ski resorts allow their Lifty’s to ski on their breaks. Luckily, the resort I worked at, granted us two one-hour ski breaks. This is what Lifty’s thrive off of, what gets us up in the morning, what gets us through rude guest encounters that blame us for anything and everything under the sun. These are what attract people to the job and keep them coming back.
Wrapping up the day, we close after the last person on the hill rides the lift up. We complete about a half hour’s worth of closing procedures and lock up the lift shack. Then comes one of the best parts of the day… every guest is off the mountain and the sun is starting to set, illuminating the sky with an explosion of reds, pinks, and oranges. All the lifts are stopping or stopped, and there is a beautiful silence. Under the sunset and amongst the quiet, we enjoy our last ski run of the day back to the parking lot. We go home and prepare to repeat this cycle the next day.