How do you get on and off a Ski Lift?

by Simon Knott | Updated: October 27th, 2022 |  Skiing Articles

In ski resorts, chairlifts are a clever invention that transports thousands of skiers up the mountain every day. They are simply designed with some clever technology, which slows the chairs at the top and bottom of the lift to make it easier for skiers to get on and off. But how do you get on and off a ski lift?

There are various types of ski lifts, which need different skills to get on and off. On a chairlift, you must be aware of what your fellow passengers are doing. While on a T-bar lift you must coordinate getting onto the T-bar with the other person. There are several common-sense tips you need to adhere to, to avoid problems.


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The Chairlift

The chairs range from two right up to eight-seaters, with modern ones having luxuries like heated seats and a Perspex hood to give protection from wind. At the top and bottom stations lift operators monitor the flow of traffic and can quickly stop the lift if any accidents or malfunctions occur.

When you sit on the chair a metal safety bar swings down from above to secure all passengers. The safety bar has footrests attached underneath so skiers can rest their legs. This also keeps the safety bar securely in place.

1. How do you get on a Chair Lift?

Chairlifts throughout the world have a similar method of operation. As you approach the lift you will pass through the lift ticket gate and then move on to the queue for the lift. You will have your skis on and your poles in your hands but not attached by straps.

Depending on how many seats the lift has a corresponding number of gates are organised at the head of the queue. As you approach the gate, you slide your skis between the gate and wait until the automatic barrier opens, which indicates you can shuffle forward to the departure point.

Then grasp your ski poles in your right hand (vice versa if you’re left-handed) and turn round to watch the chair approach. Sit down and wait for the chair to take you away from the ramp area. Check everyone is seated and lower the safety bar. You can rest your skis on the footrests and position your poles between your boots so there is less chance of dropping them.

Some newer chairlifts have a conveyor belt or magic carpet system. So, once you push through the gate you will land on the carpet, which automatically carries you forward to the departure point.

Once the lift is underway it’s very tempting to take a picture of your buddies, adjust a ski, or reorganize your pockets. However, if you look at the snow below you will see the trail of evidence of previous skiers’ failed attempts. So, it’s best to resist temptation and sort out any problem after the chairlift.

2. How do you get off a Chairlift?

Some chairlifts are long, and it is easy to get distracted at the end. However, make sure you are prepared in good time. Firstly, slide your skis off the footrest so they are dangling but with your ski tips slightly raised so don’t catch. Then approximately 25 yards from the station raise the safety bar over your head.

You may notice that the chairlift seems to slow down as you approach the station but that’s normal. Wait for the chair to arrive at the platform and shuffle forward slightly on your seat, so you can stand up more easily. Decide where you’re going to stop and ski directly there, while keeping an eye on your passengers on either side, to see where they’re heading.

If you happen to fall or someone falls on you - don’t panic. Just try to get away from the arrival area as soon as you can, as the following skiers will be close behind. The lift operators are very skilled and used to dealing with mishaps, so they can quickly stop the lift to avoid any further complications.

The T-Bar Drag Lift

What is a T-Bar Lift?

Throughout Europe you will still find T-Bar Drag Lifts in most resorts, however, they are less common nowadays. Compared to a chairlift they are much cheaper to install and easier to maintain. One or two skiers sit on a horizontal metal bar and hold the connected vertical pole for support. The pole is attached to a retractable wire, which in turn attaches to the overhead cable. Skiers are dragged slowly uphill on their skis.

1. How do you get on a T-Bar Drag Lift?

When you pass through the entrance gate one or two skiers take a position on the departure ramp with their ski poles in their outer hands. When the next T-bar arrives, you grab hold of the pole and quickly sit down on either side of the bar. As the tension in the cable tightens you will be pulled forward uphill. It’s best to relax and let the T-bar do the work, otherwise, your legs will quickly start to ache if you fight it.

As you progress uphill keep an eye on the snow surface, which can become rutted and throw you off balance. As the gradient of the hill changes the angle of the upright pole adjusts correspondingly. Adjust your posture to take this into account for a more comfortable ride.

2. How do you get off a T-Bar Drag Lift?

As you approach the top station pick the best spot to get off and coordinate with your passenger to push away from the bar. The recoil mechanism will lift the T-bar out of the way. If you do happen to fall, try to get away from the arrival area as soon as you can to avoid problems with following skiers.

Ski Rope Tows

Ski Rope tows can sometimes be seen in beginners’ areas, where the cost of a chairlift is prohibitive. Occasionally they are used to help skiers transit over a short hill to reach another run.

Usually, a continuous piece of rope is guided around a pulley at either end with occasional supports to keep the rope at about waist height. An electric motor drives the rope around the pulleys, so skiers can grab hold of the rope and be pulled along on their skis.

1. How do you get on a Ski Rope Tow?

When you arrive at the moving rope simply grab it with which other hand is best, while keeping your ski poles in the other. Try to let the rope do the work, although any rope tow it’s tiring over a longer distance.

2. How do you get off a Ski Rope Tow?

As you approach the end of the rope tow, simply let go of the rope and push away on your skis from the area to be clear of following skiers.