Ski resorts have all kinds of different lifts that transport you around the ski area. They can be divided into three categories: first there’s surface or drag lifts, where you keep your skis or snowboard on the ground and are pulled or pushed up the slope. Aerial lifts take you off the ground, while railways go up track and often underground. If you follow the instructions of the lift operators and take note of any signs, they’re all safe and easy to ride.
You’ll need to buy a ski pass to use most lifts (though sometimes beginner lifts are free). Most resorts have a number of passes to choose between - one for the local area and others that cover adjoining resorts for access to more terrain. Usually lifts have a scanner which lets you through when you present your pass - swipe past the scanner and the turnstile will open for you.
(French: téléski, German: Schlepplift, Italian: Sciovia)
Button is the European word and you’ll hear Platter used more over the pond… You might hear them called ‘Poma’ lifts after one of the main manufacturers. They consist of long poles with small round seats that are attached to a moving cable and are usually used when the distance doesn’t warrant building a chairlift.
How to use a button lift safely:
How to use a button lift with a snowboard:
Button lifts can be a bit tricky for boarders as they’re designed to be ridden facing forwards. Release your back foot from its bindings before getting on so you can shuffle along. Keep your knees bent, your shoulders in line with the board and your weight on your front foot – this can help you stay balanced and lets you steer as you normally would. Drift out of the exit zone before reattaching your binding to leave space for the person behind you.
This is a continuous rope loop that pulls you along – they’re often used on long flat parts of a slope. They often don’t have a station; you just slide up and grab hold.
How to use a rope tow safely:
How to use a rope drag lift with a snowboard:
Either ride with the rope in front or behind you. Whichever way you opt for, point the board up the hill and grab hold. Keep your shoulders parallel to the board and just let it pull or push you along.
These work in a similar way as a button lift, although the end is a J (for one person) or T (for two) shaped bar.
How to use J bars & T-bars safely:
How to use J bars & T-bars with a snowboard:
There are two main ways – it comes down to what you find most comfortable. Some choose to ride side-on with the bar resting under the back hip, and others ride it sideways with the bar between their legs. You can either ride with both feet strapped in or one unfastened – either way, keep your knees bent, weight on your front foot and shoulders in line with the board.
Magic Carpets or travelators are a conveyer belt built into the snow which transports you over a short distance. They’re often found in beginner areas as they’re the easiest lifts to use and work on gentle slopes. Some conveyers are covered (like the one in Val Thorens) so they look a bit like a tunnel whereas others are open (like in Zermatt where a covering would mean you miss the awesome views of the Matterhorn...).
How to use a Magic Carpet:
How to use a Magic Carpet with a snowboard:
Unfasten one foot and scoot to the loading area, then slide your board onto the belt, front foot first. Place your back foot on your board, or just to the side on the belt itself –make sure your foot is on the board before exiting so you can easily slide off.
(French: télésiège German: Sessellift, Italian: Seggiovia)
These often make up the majority of lifts in a resort. Most seat 2 to 8 people and they run on a continuous wire. Some (called bubble chairs) come with a pod-like cover to shelter you from the elements while others have heated seats or a magnetic device fitted, so a child wearing the corresponding magnets can be safety secured. You’ll hear chair lifts referred to by the amount of people they can seat: like doubles, triples, quads or 5 packs, 6 packs, 7 packs and 8 packs.
How to use a chairlift safely:
How to use a chairlift with a snowboard:
Unfasten one foot so you can skate to the loading area. When you exit, put your back foot on the inside of your back binding and drift out of the exit path before you try to fasten your binding.
(French: télécabine, German: Gondel, Italian: Telecabina)
Gondolas or bubbles are enclosed pods that run on a loop of wire. They come in a range of sizes: in smaller ones you have seats and can store equipment on the outside, in larger ones you take your gear in with you and stand or sit around the edge. Gondola’s are getting more and more hi-tech, Val Thorens invested a whopping €6.5 million in the Funitel Thorens recently and the Jandri Express in Les 2 Alps is the fastest in the world.
How to use a gondola safely:
How to use a gondola with a snowboard:
Very much the same as you would with skis: once you’ve taken off you board, carry it upright and either take it in the cabin with you or store it on the outside.
(French: téléphérique, German: standseilbahn, Italian: sunivia)
Unlike gondolas these don’t run on a continuous circuit, they run backwards and forwards along a wire. They’re normally built with two carriages running together on a pulley system and are often standing-only. Standards of comfort and style are certainly rising – Kronplatz is famous for its cable cars with heated, leather seats and Zell am See has one that was designed by Porsche.
How to use a cable car safely:
Don’t push or rush to get on or off. Slot your skis together and hold your gear upright for the whole process.
How to use a cable car with a snowboard:
As with skis, carry your board upright when boarding so it’s safe from knocking into people.
(French: funiculaire, German: seilbahn, Italian: funicolare)
Normally your fastest way up the mountain, funiculars run on rails like a train and often go underground.
They also tend to have more capacity than other lifts. In resorts like Les Arcs and ski areas like the Jungfrau in Switzerland, this type of lift is a fundamental part of ski holidays.
How to use a funicular safely:
You need to take your skis off to ride a funicular. Make sure you carry them upright so they don’t knock into anyone and get on and off without rushing or pushing.
How to use a funicular with a snowboard:
Similar to skiers, you need to carry your board and use the lift on foot. Hold your board upright so you don’t knock anyone and take your time.
Invented in 1936 chairlifts revolutionised the way skiers accessed the top of the mountain – skiers were still walking to the top of the mountain in many ski resorts. The first chairlift was built in Sun Valley ski resort, USA in 1936 by Union Pacific Railroad. It was a single-seater chairlift. The first chairlift in Europe was built in 1940 in the Czech Republic.
Chairlifts are one of the safest modes of transports around and with the advancements in technology they are getting safer every year as well. Chairlifts have safety bars to stop you slipping out of them, and newer lifts often have an automatic release mechanism to make sure you don’t lift the safety bar during the journey.
A magic carpet is the easiest lift to use when learning to ski. It's a travelator which takes you up the slope. Skiers and snowboarders slide onto the belt and stand up with skies and snowboards facing forward. Magic carpets are usually found in beginner learning areas.
The most effortless ski lift for snowboarders to use is cable cars and gondolas. Snowboarders just need to take off their boards and walk on to the lift – it's as easy as that! When first learning to snowboard, everyone struggles with button lifts. Button lifts were designed before snowboarding was invented which make them the hardest to use for first-time snowboarders.
Cable cars are one of the safest modes of transports available. Cable cars are used all over the world for mass transportation purposes, not just in ski resorts – London in England, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Queenstown in New Zealand, La Paz in Bolivia and Da Nang in Vietnam are just a few of the places you will find them.
Yes! You can ride some chairlifts and all cable cars down the mountain. In Sauze d'Oulx the beginner learning area is halfway up the mountain – to get back down the safest way after skiing is taking the chairlift down the mountain. It usually is obvious whether you can ride a ski lift down - lookout for signs and entrances to the ski lift.
In many resorts, you can get a pedestrian pass which is perfect for the non-skiers wishing to explore the mountain and meet skier friends for lunch. It is also great for younger kids that aren't old enough to ski yet.