How To Ride The Button or Drag Lift (Skiers & Snowboarders)

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

How To Ride The Button

Equally terrifying and hilarious, the button lift or Poma is an intrinsic part of the ski and snowboard experience. Here we will give you a few hard-earned tips on overcoming this scary aspect of the ski resort. The button lift is here to mess with our lives. Of all the scary, dangerous, and downright terrifying things we do on slopes and off-piste, you would think that most of us would have the button lift figured out. It's not true.

If you fancy some excellent entertainment, go to a button lift with your camera and wait. It won't take long before you have something hilarious to film. People do not get the skill quickly. Once you have it, you have it for life, but it is a challenge at first.

ski button lift

We are reader supported. We may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

For Both Snowboarders and Skiers

There are two reasons why resorts use button lifts.

1. Button lifts are a smaller outlay to ski resorts than installing a chair lift.

2. You can't install a chair lift over a glacier if your slopes run over a glacier, and the button is the only option.

The Basics

1. Don't fear the button; be the button.

2. Once you are ready and in position to receive the button, relax and loosen up and be prepared for it to jerk forward. If you're tense, you're more likely to be pulled off your feet.

3. It's okay to let a couple of lifts go, as you prepare yourself for the challenge

4. Don't use the button as a seat as it does not remain steady. Imagine it as a hook that is wrapped around your leg and dragging you, while your weight is flat and center on your skis or board.

For Snowboarders:

1. Watch as many people as you need to beforehand. Watch for 10 minutes. The longer you watch and study the process, the less chance of a crash.

2. Your back needs to be upright.

3. Your knees should be slightly bent.

4. Your shoulders should be in line with your snowboard.

5. Your weight must remain on your front foot to make sure that you can still steer.

6. Now that you're confident with your one foot out, you must pick a button lift for practice purposes.

There's a massive difference in drag-lift speed. Some can be steep, while others can jerk you so hard, and at other times you may even get ahead of the button. So, start at the bottom and slowly move up. It's best to spend some time on a beginner slope button lift to get some courage. They tend to have a reasonably shallow angle with few surprises.


button lift

Step 1.

  • Get into position and grab the pole securely.
  • As soon as the skier in front of you has moved on, assume the start position. Set up your posture with your rear foot on the board. Don't be in a hurry at first, and as mentioned, it's cool if you miss the first button. Look over your shoulder and grab the next one as it approaches with both hands, then secure it firmly in your leading hand.

Step 2.

  • Place the button between your legs and take the strain of the movement, again with your leading hand. Place the button between your legs, and have it resting on the inner thigh and put your back foot on your board. Don't sit on the button. Your leading hand, combined with the pressure, will get you going.

Step 3.

  • Keep a stable posture while moving.
  • That stable posture is vital. Don't turn your shoulders around so that your chest faces the pole. Keep your shoulders lined up with your snowboard. Ensure this is by pointing a finger to the tail.

Step 4.

  • Relax and move the pressure around.
  • Try not to be tense as it will lead to cramps and make your muscles tired very quickly. Bend your knees slightly. When you're feeling pressure building up, take the weight with your leading hand. When your arm starts flagging, let your thigh to take the pressure for the second time. If you're on a steeper button and feel that you're losing grip, grab the pole with both hands and tug yourself uphill just a little.
  • Along the route, there may be a few challenges, which you can tackle easily if your shoulders stay lined-up with your board. You can steer the board as usual, but don't lean back. You need your weight over your front foot to turn. All you need to worry about then is letting go of the button at the top of the ride.

For Skiing:

Step 1.

  • Start by skiing up to the entrance of the button lift.
  • Then remove the pole straps from your hands and put both poles in your outside hand. Slowly shuffle your skis forward until the tips are behind the mark in the snow indicating the loading position.

Step 2.

  • Look over your shoulder for the approaching button. When it arrives, the attendant will hand you the bar.

Step 3.

  • Spread your legs just a little and pull down on the arm. Tuck the wedge between your thighs. The bar should rest against the back of your thighs until the cable takes up the slack.

Step 4.

  • Slowly squeeze your legs together, locking the plate in place. Lean back slightly until you feel the pull of the cable. Keep your ankles, knees and hips akimbo.

Step 5.

  • When you reach the unloading station, spread your legs slightly and pull the plate out and continue skiing forward.
  • Even when you ski at one of the smarter resorts across the world, you're likely to ride a button. Button lifts are a type of surface lift used to transport large numbers of skiers to areas that are inaccessible by chair lifts.
  • Remember to keep your knees akimbo throughout. Stop if someone wipes out in front of you. Carry your poles in one hand and hold onto the vertical bar with the other. Pay careful attention while riding the button. If someone crashes while riding the lift, it might be stopped. Always look in front of you because there might be some bumps in your path.