2017-2018 Far West Skier's Guide - 64-24
Both of these chairlifts were an integral part of the Mt. Chopok lift system
in the 1990s, but are no longer in service.
LEFT AND RIGHT:
mountain. That lift was not frightening or difficult like some of the other more unusual lifts,
but one wonders what the designers could
have been thinking about. Imagine how slow
it is to load and unload skiers who are sitting
sideways, compared with skiers who are facing forwards and just ski on and off the lift.
It is, perhaps, understandable that the communist system in Eastern Europe ultimately
In the realm of lifts that are poorly designed with regard to smooth and easy loading
and unloading, one cannot omit the "garbagecan" lifts, which are also slowly becoming extinct. I still used such lifts on the Marmolada
Glacier, in Alagna, and in Cortina in the
nineties, but I fear that these inconvenient, but
fun contraptions are also on their way out.
These lifts resemble implements of torture from the Spanish Inquisition, but I was
assured at the Marmolada lift that it was
specifically built for transporting skiers, as recently as 1974. What I refer to as a garbagecan lift was a narrow basket for two passengers, who had to enter the garbage-can-shaped
apparatus while it moved quickly past. The
lift attendant then lunged after the lift, depositing the skis, hopefully without knocking out
any of the passenger's teeth in the process.
With a little luck, two skiers and two
pairs of skis would then stand tightly pressed
together until they reached the top station,
where the entire procedure was reversed.
This would be an opportune lift line to search
out a partner with the endowments of Pamela
Anderson, I mused upon first observing it, but
I ended up pressed chest to chest with my
friend, Caspar. He must have eaten a garlicpasta for breakfast, and my thoughts returned
to strange methods of torture.
In the tiny ski resort of Haldigrat, in
Switzerland, a new variation of the traditional
chair lift has recently developed. After a number of years of idleness due to bankruptcy, the
ski lift was bought in 2001 by an eccentric
Swiss man - Kurt Mathis. Swiss law mandates that a ski lift requires a high-salaried
head of ski lift operations. So to save costs,
Kurt dismounted all but a few chairs and a
cargo carrier. Nowadays, the 707-verticalmeter lift only can carry 55 passengers an
hour, even with the cargo carrier in use to
transport skiers. The good news is that there
can never be very many people on the mountain to track up the powder.
When it comes to torturous lifts, perhaps
64 - 24 Far West Skier's Guide 2O17 - 2O18 / Digital Edition Insert
nothing can top the "Va et Vient" lift which
keeps participants flailing and falling and the
spectators well entertained in Portillo, Chile.
Portillo actually has two such lifts, the Roca
Jack and the Condor lifts.
The "Va et Vient" is a strange invention
which has five Poma lifts all connected together. Five skiers, therefore, are pulled up the
740 vertical meters on the Roca Jack side by
side . . . if all goes well. The whole system
functions without benefit of a lift tower, a design necessary because frequent avalanches on
the steep slope would otherwise constantly destroy the towers.
Riding up the precarious Roca Jack,
which is over 30 degrees steep, with your wellbeing dependent on the ability of yourself and
four others to maintain balance is an experience every bit as exciting and adventurous as
skiing the steep slope back down.
For added thrills, the lift track rises over
numerous moguls and inconsistencies in the
terrain. During the ascent a multi-lingual conversation is usually necessary to organize the
order of disembarking from this contraption.
The preferred method of releasing the Poma
on such a steep slope is to slide off backwards
into a reverse snowplow, but if all five perform
this maneuver simultaneously, the invariable
result is a tangle of skis, poles, and bodies gliding en masse back toward the original point of
One of the more recently added attractions at the Liseberg amusement park close to
my home in Gothenburg, Sweden is an oldstyle wooden roller coaster. It has been met
with accolades from all sides. There is something to be said for old-fashioned ways of having fun. If you are the type of person who
enjoys a time-machine trip back to the early
days of skiing, start visiting a few of the spots
in this article. Many of them are a bit off the
beaten path, but well worth a visit. In the
meantime, I will send a copy of this article to
the Doppelmayr Company and see if they can't
come up with an interesting anachronism to
entertain us all in the Rockies or the Alps in
the near future. ss
Jimmy Petterson had traveled to all of these
locations among the 600-plus resorts that he
has skied. Some of these contraptions may
have been replaced with more advanced lifts
since his visit. His adventures in 74 countries
will all be available in Volumes I and II
of Skiing Around the World, expected on
bookshelves in 2018 or 2019. See www.skiingaroundtheworldbook.com for more