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Tips about lift lines - A Beginner Zone thread

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Sometimes one of the hardest part of being a beginner is learning how to navigate a lift line.  Especially if you are limited to weekends or holidays when the green/blue slopes are relatively crowded.  In addition to needing practice on how to maneuver with skis attached to stiff boots, and figuring out what to do with poles, often it's not obvious how the traffic flow works in a "lift maze."
Read on for answers to questions like:
*  What if my group is only 2 people but the chair lift holds 3 or more?
*  What if my group has more people than will fit on one chair?
*  What if I'm skiing alone?
*  What if I'm skiing with a child who is a beginner?
*  What if I'm skiing with more than one child?
*  What if my child does not have poles?
*  How do I move if the lift line has a little uphill section?
There are many variations on how lift lines are set up.  Small feeder ski areas and large destination resorts can be quite different.  When you go to a new place, take a few minutes to watch how the lift line moves before getting in line.
post #2 of 6
Thread Starter 

The following tips by @dave_SSS is from a thread discussing what happens with a "singles line."  An experienced lift attendant can easily keep the lines moving smoothly when people are paying attention.


Some chairlifts have a separate line for "singles," meaning someone who is planning on riding the lift alone when there is an open spot.  Usually more common when the lift holds 3+ people.  Obviously all lines move faster when all the chairs are full.  So adding a single to a group of 2 for a triple, or a single to a group of 3 for a quad, is better for everyone.  Most of the time, there is a lift attendant, called a "liftie", directing traffic.



Originally Posted by dave_SSS View Post

Groups always have used the option to break up and instead use singles lines and join back up at the top.  The numbers of groups that do so is self regulating.  With short maze lines is not an issue.  When maze lines get longer, if the singles line is considerable shorter and skiers are impatient, say on fresh powder days, well then yes some will make the obvious wise choice.  On the other hand when the singles line is not that much shorter a wait, and or people are in no hurry say on a ho hum day, they are likely to forgo breaking up their group.

Given the thread, watched the lift maze grouping more closely yesterday and there were few chairs inefficiently loading a quad and two triples I used.  In some cases that was due to good work by a team of lift attendants.  Sometimes an attendant watched from a distance outside the corral while encouraging people to pair up merging into groups on their own.  That worked well and reflected a majority of skiers and boarders with civil considerate attitudes.

I think lift etiquette could be improved on lifts by some simple signs at corral mazes that listed some basic things.  Feel free to tweak or add to the below.

Lift and corral maze behavior:


  1. Be friendly and considerate.
  2. Have lift tickets and passes out and visible for attendant viewing or scanning.
  3. With an attendant present, follow their directions to efficiently merge and load chairs.
  4. Take care of loose gear before reaching the next to load block.
  5. Groups move forward together in a line towards the next to load block so singles know how many need to be added.
  6. Do not split up groups moving towards loading.
  7. Groups move promptly towards loading block to load a chair together.
  8. Do not duck under ropes.  Enter mazes from open lanes.
  9. Approach lift corral lanes safely at slow enough speeds to not run into others or their gear.
  10. Do not allow friends who arrive later to join into groups already in line.  Wait for them outside the maze before grouping into a line.
  11. Arriving singles go to end of lines thus don't cut in with friends already in line.
  12. Singles unless otherwise directed by an attendant, independently merge with groups to fill chairs.
  13. When lift lines are lengthening without an attendant present, PLEASE merge up with other groups and singles to efficiently fill chairs.


Usage tip: 

The green arrow in the Quote above is a "forward" link.  Hover over it until you get the pointing hand pointer, then click to go to the original post/thread.

post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

In recent years, conveyor loading for a chair lift is becoming more common at North American ski areas, large and small.  the first video about how to help a small child load is from a series of videos by Darren Turner, an Englishman who teaches in France.  The second is about how to set up with conveyor loading in general.




If you have any questions about how to load, best to watch a few groups before you get in the lift line.  Can ask the liftie for help.  If you are going with a small child, can ask for the lift to be slowed a little if necessary.

post #4 of 6

How do I move if the lift line has a little uphill section?

Gentle rises in the snow often happen at the lift, right where you need to stand in line.  So annoying!  You need to keep yourself from slipping backwards as you wait motionless, and you need to go forward when it's your turn without crashing backwards into other people.  You also need to avoid stepping on top of other people's skis as you do this. 


There are three basic ways to handle such a rise.


1.  You can keep your skis pointed straight ahead and push yourself along, up the rise, with your poles.  You can hold yourself stable while standing still if you firmly plant the pole tips in the snow behind you.  Straighten your arms as you do this to save muscle power.


2.  You can "herringbone" yourself up.  Position your skis in a reverse wedge, with the tails close together and the tips apart.  Your skis will form an arrow (or a "V") pointing backwards.  In this position you can grip the snow by tipping your feet so the big toe edges of both skis go down into the snow, and the little toe edges lift up into the air.  You won't slide backwards, and you can walk up by advancing one ski at a time -- just be sure to keep the ski tipped with your foot as you step.  "Herringboning" your way uphill is a fundamental skill for getting around on the flats.  It's called that because of the pattern of marks the skis make in the snow.


3. The third way of handling the rise is to side-step you way up it.  Only if the lift line is empty should you use side-stepping, because it takes up a lot of room and puts you in danger of stepping on other people's skis.  To side-step up, place your skis sideways (perpendicular) to the rise so they won't want to slide either forwards or backwards.  Tip your feet onto their uphill sides; this will lift the downhill edges of both skis slightly up in the air and press the uphill edges down into the snow to grip it.  That grip will keep you from sliding down.  Keep those skis tipped that way with your feet as you step sideways up the rise.  It's the height of rudeness to step on people's skis so only do this if the lift line is empty. 

post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the answer for handling going up in a lift line!


At my small Mid-Atlantic ski area, keeping skis parallel and pushing with poles works pretty well.  There is one place that's just before the end of the lift line ropes where knowing how to herringbone is useful.  My friend's young son had no problem even in his first season because he plays ice hockey.  He could "skate" uphill in the training area faster than the magic carpet went.


Little kids, say under 7, don't need poles when they are beginners.  In the lift line, my daughter liked to borrow one of my poles to push along.  If it wasn't too busy, sometimes I would let her use one.  When she was really little, age 4, sometimes I stayed a little behind her and gave her a little push if needed.  She started with ski school so the instructors taught the kids the basics of how to move on the flats on skis without poles early on.

post #6 of 6

What if my group is only 2 people but the chair lift holds 3 or more?

Invite a single skier to join you.  Be wary of lower level snowboarders--they're more likely to get into trouble on the get-off than a skier.  Or more likely to get off OK while knocking their neighbor down.


*  What if my group has more people than will fit on one chair?
Split your group.
*  What if I'm skiing alone?
Singles line, or partner with another single entering the lift line at the same time.
*  What if I'm skiing with a child who is a beginner?
Tell them to stay alongside you, not drop back nor get ahead.  Tell them to stand on the "stand here" board under foot at the loading spot.  Tell the liftie to help if you're lined up so the kid is next to the liftie (good idea).  The liftie will slow the beginner chair if asked.  Be sure the kid gets fully on the chair, pulling them if needed.  In chairlifts with multiple gates, tell the kid which gate they'll go through when you get there, "Johnny, you'll be in the first gate, Suzie, you'll be in the middle gate,"  Where the lanes of the maze merge, tell the kid which skier they'll go behind as you all merge, "Johnny, you'll be behind the man in the orange boots."
*  What if I'm skiing with more than one child?
One on each side if that'll work best.  Be sure you get yourself squarely into the chair and all the way back before you start helping them.*  You don't want to fall off the chair, pull the kid with you, fall on them.
(*You know how the flight attendant says that if the plane loses pressurization oxygen masks will fall, then put yours on before you put your kid's mask on them--take care of yourself first so you can take better care of them.)
*  What if my child does not have poles?
So much the better.
About getting off--it's easy if you do this...approaching the get-off, point your skis straight ahead.  At the get-off point stand fully up, don't crouch.  Crouchers fall.  Stand on the balls of both feet.  People back on their heels fall.  Slide ahead to a place that is safe and out of others' way to get your pole straps on.  If you fall at the get-off, scramble out of the way.  Don't try to stand, just get out of the way, then stand up and begin looking dignified again.  The liftie is supposed to stop the lift when someone falls in the get-off runout.  Supposed to....
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