Lift ops can be a fun job- except for when it’s not. As the season approaches the midway point, resorts are hiring on more ops to help keep the lifts spinning. I’ve thought of my five favorite, and least favorite parts of the job to help anyone who wants to become an op out.
The coldest, prettiest lift at Moonlight.
1. You get first tracks on certain parts of the hill. In order to get to your lift, you’ll likely be required to ski down unopened terrain, giving you fresh snow before the crowds!
2. Ride breaks/passes. Depending on what your resort’s policy is you may be given ride breaks, there’s nothing like getting paid to ski. It helps make the day move faster, and puts a spring back in your step.
You’ll have a pass to the mountain now, so you have no excuse to not be skiing.
3. You’re outside. Granted, if you’re posted up top chances are you’ll be sitting in your shack, but this is no cubical job.
4. You’ll learn your mountain quickly if you don’t already, and feel like a local in no time.
5. Being a Liftie is like joining a dysfunctional family. There will be people you like, and others you pray don’t work your lift. You’ll meet people to ski with on your days off, and make friends out of it. Nothing says family like burgers to celebrate two weeks injury free.
1. Shoveling is a constant thing. Whether you’re shoveling snow onto your ramp, or digging out the pit you’ll quickly realize shoveling is the biggest part of the job.
2. Sometimes your lift can be pretty isolated, or you may be the only op. This is ideal if you’re struggling that day, but can sometimes be a downer. To counterpoint that, working the main lift can be pretty difficult. Ramp work is rushed, and having everyone ask if you’ve skied the powder (which you haven’t) makes the day drag on.
3. Getting hit by the chair. It can, and will happen. You can miss a bump, or simply be unaware of your surroundings. Working on big machinery causes injuries- it’s no surprise lift ops usually had the highest occupation injury rate on your hill.
4. Terrain isn’t always in perfect conditions, and you’ll be required to ski it regardless. That’s not a problem when you’re working the carpets, but it can be challenging trying to ski rain crusted snow down the steepest part of the mountain. The weather I feel also fits under this. There is nothing worse than being on a carpet in -10.
5. The hours. Depending where you work your start time will differ, but you’ll most likely be up early in the morning and done in the evening. Working on different lifts every day can mean ending at a different time. Some lifts close at 4, but load other lifties until 4:40, others start late and are the last to close. It’s never a fixed time, and you have to take into account guests who could be potentially stranded if you shutdown and leave. I usually don’t make any plans until after seven p.m. because I never know when I’ll leave.
Sometimes you share a shack with patrol...
All things considered, lift ops is a pretty chill job. You get to spend your time on a mountain you love, helping people doing what you love. You can be busy from start to closing one day, and twiddling your thumbs the next, but nothing beats it.