The Different Types of Ski Lifts That You Find on the Ski Slopes

Planning a ski trip for the first time? Somewhat nervous about how you will get up the mountain using the ski lifts? This article will cover some of the most popular types of ski lift commonly seen on ski slopes across the globe. Knowing what to expect can help improve your confidence about your first ski experience.

Ski lifts divide into two categories: aerial lifts and surface lifts. As their names suggest, an aerial lift carries you into the air and a surface lift keeps you on the ski slope.

Aerial Lifts

1) Gondola Lift

This is a type of enclosed cable car suspended from a continuously circulating cable between two base stations. For those planning a ski holiday in the French alps, this type of cable car is known as the ‘telecabine’. You will need to be carrying your skis to use this type of lift and walk in your ski boots into the cabin. There is usually a seat to sit down, which can be handy as the journey times can be considerable – maybe 15-20 minutes depending on your ski location. Some cable cars will have a small window opening for ventilation.

2) Aerial Tramway

This is another type of enclosed cabin-style cable car. It differs from the Gondola Lift only in the technical sense that it is not continuously circulating but instead reverses and changes direction once it gets to the base station. In French, this type of cable car is known as the telepherique and for those heading for the German Alps, this style of cable car is known as the Seilbahn.

3) Chairlift

This type of lift is made up of a series of chairs with usually between 2 and 4 seats, but could be up to as many as 8 seats. It is an open air lift, such that you are subject to the elements. It is very pleasant if the weather is benevolent, as you can often watch skiers and snowboarders on the slopes below you. It is less pleasant if you are being blown snow into your face, although the lift won’t operate if it is too windy due to safety concerns.

Surface Lifts

1) Button Lift or Platter Lift

This is known as a teleski in French. It consists of a small round seat or ‘button’ on a sprung pole or retractable cord. The skier grabs hold of the pole as it comes round, pulls down on it to position the seat between his legs and lets the system pull him up the mountainside. You do not actually sit on the ‘button’, rather you ‘balance’ on it.

2) T-Bar Lift

This is similar to the Button Lift. However, instead of the round seat, there is a bar shaped in the form of a T. A T-Bar lift propels 2 skiers up the slope at the same time. The T-bar does not go between your legs. Rather, each skier is sitting or rather ‘balancing’ on each side of the T.

3) Magic Carpet

This is best described as a conveyor belt which you step onto with your skis facing parallel and it carries you up the mountainside. These mostly operate on nursery slopes, as they are slow and are generally operate over only fairly short distances.