At resorts and ski areas in Colorado, and across the country, lift operators make the chairs go ‘round. So don’t duck the ropes and don’t grumble when they ask for your pass on an icy day. Just smile, help your kids on the lift and be happy that you don’t have to hike up the hill.
Joshua Felix, a lift operator at Copper Mountain who skied 72 days last season, took time out to answer eight questions.
When did you start skiing?
I started skiing when I was 5, but since then I’ve only skied a couple times each season. Until now.
What’s your favorite run at Copper?
I think it has to be the Fremont Glades on Tucker Bowl. I like the fact that nobody else is there. It’s Cat access only, so there can only be 10, 11 people at a time on the face.
It’s minus 17 degrees. What would a liftie wear?
It’s been really cold in the mornings, and I’ll usually wear the company outer shell, plus two thick wool sweaters.
What’s the easiest way to identify tourists?
By their rental stickers, their Columbia jackets, their ineptitude at making (groups of) four in a que-up. There’s just so many tell-tale signs: Vail beanies, jeans tucked into the boots, crappy goggles. Tourists never have nice goggles.
Have you seen any lift evacuations?
I just saw one that was over in about 15 minutes; it looked like fun. A while back though, some of our lifties got stuck on a chair for over an hour and 30 minutes, right underneath the snow gun. So not only was it blasting powder all over them, but the loudness of the snow gun damaged their ear drums. They were thinking of shimmying up the chair and going hand-over-hand to the next tower, but they kept having faith that the chair would get running again. After a while they started shaking and having signs of hypothermia, so ski patrol had to come and get them. I think ski patrol just drove up with a Cat and pulled them down with a rope. They were huddled up together, two super-tough dudes. Now they’re really good friends.
What’s the dumbest question you’ve ever been asked?
Tourists ask so many dumb questions. But the dumbest has to be ‘Where are the powder stashes?’ As if I’m ever going to tell you that.
What’s the easiest way to make the liftie angry?
Oh, there’s so many easy ways. Ducking the ropes is one, because then I have to put the maze back together; not paying attention when you load and making yourself fall, but then blaming it on your wife and/or kids; or when you bring up all your little kids, you send them up to the red board and you don’t help, you expect me to put all your kids on the chair in a matter of seconds.
What’s the best part about being a liftie?
The job has some great perks. The lifties on the other parts of the mountain tell you when everything is starting to open on their side. You just get to know the mountain so well that no matter how much snow, or what type of snow is on the ground, you know exactly where on the mountain to go. And depending on what day it is, you’ll know where you can avoid all the tourists, and be off by yourself for hours without seeing another person. I’m on the side of a mountain all day, and sometimes people ski up and say ‘Hey, I’m having more fun than you are.’ And I think, ‘I ski every day and you work in an office every day.’ It balances out.
From the Editors: We spent a heap of time making sure this story was accurate when it was published, but of course, things can change. Please confirm the details before setting out in our great Centennial State.