Brought to you by Grand Targhee Resort
“You should know going in that there’ll likely be shenanigans.” I recall this comment clearly, delivered long ago by a sort of paternal ski-bum who never did confirm whether his words were encouragement or warning. In those days I was a footloose young man–about to accept my first job as a Lifty.
Fast-forward 30+ years to find I’m still on snow more often than not, and while I no longer catch chairs for a paycheck, I still recognize the Lift Operator, or ‘Lifty’ to the mountain-initiated, to be a mainstay of snow culture. And at Grand Targhee Resort, the crews at each chairlift are as funky and fun as they come.
“‘Lifty Lifestyle’ is definitely a big appeal to our team,” Charlie Simon said, Lift Operations Manager at Grand Targhee Resort. “There aren’t many people out there who have an office view like ours–and we ski at work!”
To really impart the impact of Targhee’s friendly chairlift attendants, it’s probably best to explain the parts in the process.
Each chairlift has a crew that sees the cable seats spin for the duration of a shift or ski-day. There’s a top shack attendant who keeps vigil from within a large, hopefully heated, electrical box beside a spinning bull wheel. Far-far below, additional crew members oversee ticket scanning, chair loading, a certain degree of public relations, and set-list DJ-ing.
On any given ski day, these lads and lasses of the mountainside are commonly the first staff we meet, and they’re the last line of defense for safe lifts up the hill. They’re creatures of the snow, colorful characters to know, and without them, many of us wouldn’t be making turns at all.
“We have a team of forty Lift Operators,” Charlie said. “And we can teach anyone to be good at it, but it’s good work ethic and teamwork that really make the difference.”
Teamwork is a common denominator to mountain community overall. Like Charlie and the crew at Targhee, any Lifty worth their salt knows it is a privilege to add a personal vibe to the professional workday. A Lifty knows the locals, shares in their stoke, and they’re also the ambassadors who help pass that energy to the first-time visitor.
“At Targhee, Lifties get to be the face of the mountain,” Charlie said. “We look for hard workers who come to work on-time with a good attitude and have ability to work together.”
Regarding the chairlifts themselves, Grand Targhee is lucky in that it’s cozy enough to allow each one to grow a vibe all its own.
“Skiers and riders often take for granted the lifts themselves,” Charlie said. “Chairlifts are large, powerful, and complex machines. As Lift Operators, our crew gets to learn all about the machinery itself and how it all works.”
There are five lifts, counting the magic carpet (and Mini-Shreds certainly do) central among the five is the famous Dreamcatcher. Easily the most-frequented lift, DC (as it’s lovingly known) is the crossroads connecting Targhee’s base to its summit, and all slopes in-between. The DC crew performs on the proverbial main stage of mountain ops as well as public service, and they execute with a professional’s patience and ‘powder hound’ good humor.
The outlier to the north is the famous chairlift Blackfoot. It’s a short uphill ride with the feel of an outpost. The country it accesses can be wild indeed so it’s little surprise that the ‘feel’ is practically tribal—and you can bet there’ll be ritualistic dancing when the running gets deep. Since the stashes skied from Blackfoot are hardly a secret, the crew at this lift are well-accustomed to smooth service and familiar faces—occasionally wearing snorkels.
Sacajawea, or ‘Sac’ as it is gloriously known, is the chairlift accessing the farthest south-facing slopes. Like its Blackfoot brother, Sac is a fairly quick spin. It links directly to thrilling cliffs, quiet forest, and a drive station ringing with lively music of rotating genres. The crew here deserves an additional nod for heartiness as Sac sits so deep in the cleavage of these hills that it rarely feels direct sun, and even then the window is slim.
Sliding the focus back to the base area, we lay eyes upon dear Shoshone; a chairlift version of the Little Engine That Could. Shoshone is the favorite hangout of young rippers, learners, and wise miners of tree lines when high-traffic creates queues at the other chairs.
Shoshone also neighbors Papoose, Targhee’s mighty magic carpet. Together Papoose and Shoshone nurture a climate that is carefree to the core. Whether the day is bluebird conditions or blizzard, the staff and the sliders at Papoose will be found enjoying a laid-back fantastic play on the snow.
“It’s a great pleasure to work with the team we have here at Targhee.” Charlie said. “Lift Operations works closely with Lift Maintenance, Grooming and Vehicle Maintenance each day to keep lifts turning and the mountain running.”
To facilitate the logistics of any given ski day at Grand Targhee, the Lifty, specifically, brings to the slopes an array of skills, including—and especially—pure, undimmed adaptability. They live light, sometimes communally (and often low-rent). Morning rituals for a Lifty mean ride shares on windblown access roads, ice to clear, or snow to shovel. And they shoulder that, in part, because there really is no other office like theirs. A Lifty embodies what many may enjoy only over select travel dates. And trusty-true as they are, the typical Lifty can be relied upon to also approach Happy Hour with the same trademark professional diligence. So if you spot one, shout them a round or pass them a smile; they’ll be up early making tomorrow’s turns possible.