The fortunate thing for skiers is that ski lifts were made especially for them. They can ride around the mountains in relative comfort, whilst things are a little trickier for snowboarders.
Despite that, there are plenty of skiers, particularly beginners, who worry at the thought of having to get pulled up the piste by a ski lift. It even puts people off taking up snowsports completely!
If this sounds like you, fear not! We had a chat with the guys and gals at SnoworksGAP for tips on how to use a ski lift if you’re a skier…
How does a skier go about using a drag lift?
The most important thing to remember is not to sit down. It might not always be the natural, instinctive thing to do, but always stand on a drag lift. Position yourself with both skis hip-width apart and facing directly up the slope in-line with the ski lift. You’ll either approach from the left or the right, depending on where the entrance to the ski lift is.
If it’s a single button lift then you must stand as close as possible to where the lift comes around and grasp the long shaft as high up as possible for maximum downward leverage – pull it downwards and stick it in between your legs!
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Then allow any slack to tighten as the ‘button’ part rests against your backside. At this point, if your skis are not facing up the hill, the lift will pull you forwards, but you will travel in the direction of your skis….and fall over, immediately. You will then probably be dragged along the snow – always let go of the lift and do not attempt to get up or allow it to drag you along the ground. Start again.
If you make a successful mount, remain with your skis at hip width apart for the duration of the journey and at the top, wait until you get to the flat dismount area, pull the button away from under your legs and let go – ski away. Easy!
One more thing – if you have ski poles, hold them both in one hand, the hand you’re not using to grab the lift.
How does a skier go about using a chair lift?
Chair lifts vary in size, normally seating between two and eight people. The modern ones (and most are modern), slow down as they allow you to get on-board. There’s normally a small automatic gate that opens at this point – go forward to the mounting area with your fellow passengers.
Try to look normal and never panic. Hold both your ski poles in one hand. As the chair comes around, look behind you and gently sit on it, like you would any other chair.
Once you’re off the ground, look at your fellow passengers and slowly help to lower the safety bar. Slowly, because someone’s head might be in the way. Ride up the chair lift and enjoy the view (some modern lifts have weather covers if it’s snowing or really cold which you can also pull down).
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Now the interesting bit – getting off. As you approach the top, slowly raise the bar as the chair starts to slow down or you feel comfortable doing so (for example, there is safety netting below you and it’s obvious you are nearly there). As your skis touch the snow again, simply stand up and ski away, easy!
Avoid the natural tendency to sit back down immediately again (why beginners do this remains a mystery, but around 50% do). One tip – ski away fast and then break in a snowplough, so you clear the area but then stop, so you can gather yourself and get ready for your run down.
Do you have any tips for people worried about using ski lifts for the first time?
Yes, get a ski instructor. Seriously – do not try and use a lift for the first time on your own or with your mates – it will end up being embarrassing, wet and potentially painful. Using a ski lift is not rocket science, but you need to have instruction. Once you’ve got it, then it’s easy, but you need to know how.
Switching from snowboarding to skiing, does using a ski lift differ?
Yes, very much so, especially with drag lifts of any kind, although the principle of using a chair lift remains very similar. Of course, there are also cable cars of different sizes, anything between 4 and well over 100 people – with the larger ones, you carry your skis or snowboards on, and the smaller ones 4 to 8 persons, you tend to put your skis or snowboards on the outside and using these lifts is exactly the same.
Are there any common mistakes people make when using ski lifts?
Yes, not using a ski instructor! After that, on drag lifts, crossing skis, sitting down, not ensuring the skis are pointing directly uphill when you get on. Chairlifts – manage your ski poles so they don’t get stuck between the chair and the ground, snapping them quickly. People often take their gloves off on chairlifts and then drop them, losing them for good because they fell into a ravine – outcome is also having very cold hands.
Are there any safety precautions skiers should take?
It’s advisable to wear a ski helmet, always use the safety bar on a chairlift and don’t stick your arms out of cable car windows.
Do you have any other general tips or advice?
Enjoy the ride!
Thanks to the guys at SnoworksGAP for the great advice. Check them out if you need ski instructor courses in Europe.
Are you a snowboarder? Check out our advice on how to use a ski lift for boarders.
Last modified: January 15, 2016