Chairlift Related Incidents – The Early Off Loader

So people really do fall off chairlifts. Luckily we have had no one injured from falling this year, as the falls have been relatively minor and very close to the load and unload stations.

Though this particular incident doesn’t happen too often it has happened and I have been witness to it twice this season.

Right near the end of each chairlift ride, right at the point where guests start to raise the safety bars on their chairs, skiers do a little wiggle and shift themselves forward in the chair as to make it easier to stand up at the unload point. I hate this. Especially when the kids do it.

Twice now I have seen a skier do their little wiggle near the end of the ride, and wiggle a little too far.At the time an enclosure was set up around the entire unload station and so the falls are very short and in to soft snow.

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Both times the person stood up dumbfounded, looked at me and said “sorry”. Luckily neither were injured.

A Day In The Life Of A Lifty

Being a Lifty is an extraordinary experience. Coming from being a desk bitch for years, starting work here as a Lifty on Falls Creek nearly broke me.

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I have heard many comments about how it must be an easy job, just getting to stand there and greet people all the time. Whilst a lot of the time we are seen to be just standing around, this job is not as easy as it may appear.

Every morning we turn up to each and every top and bottom lift station, typically an hour before the lift opens. When working on the snow, everything must be completely packed up and re set up almost every day, otherwise things become iced over and stuck and/or buried and lost. As soon as us Lifties get to work in the morning we are smashing star pickets in to ice and snow, tying ropes up for que races, shoveling excess snow out of lift stations and sometimes even shoveling snow in to lift stations.

Through our working days, I would like to remind all those non lifty types out there that conditions are more often than not, very unpleasant. It’s very common to be working in rain, hail, heavy wind, snow and white out conditions, and it is always cold.

The first two weeks of my time here at Falls were like being forced to drink cement. The season started with a ‘Boom’. In about one week we went from having no snow to having a base well over a meter deep. Every shift for the first two weeks was almost entirely shoveling. My body became so sore, worn and injured that I could not sleep and had to force myself to just keep slugging.

Once a lift stations set up is complete and I phone the Lift in as operational, the chaos begins. Most lifts here at Falls Creek are very well designed, easy to load and unload and not much goes wrong, but some are mental. The reason some lifts are crazy is not even mostly due to the lift itself but rather the lifts location, subsequent traffic and under experienced riders.

Whilst a lift is operational, besides shoveling and maintaining the lift station, our job is primarily to pay attention and to keep safely getting people on and off the lifts. Every person must be treated as a beginner. Often people line up to get on a chair with the latest and greatest gear yet have never been on snow or used a chairlift. Everyday, on a few lifts in particular here, incidents happen. The parent that insists their child is fine to get on the chair themselves without help, the enormous school groups, the large non english speaking families just riding the lift for the scenery, the people that simply don’t stand up at the unload point, the occasional clown that drops his/her board half way up the lift, the beginners that go up summit and freak out at the top etc etc.

A good Lifty is constantly prepared, with a finger on the slow button, and another on the stop button. A good Lifty has eyes on every single customer and is ready to lift, push, pull and occasionally even drag people to wherever they need to be to ensure that no one gets injured and that people can safely continue to load and unload the chairs.

Being a Lifty is amazing, but be prepared to have nature test you.

For anyone looking to get seriously fit, have an active social life and to save some cash at the same time, do a snow season at a Victorian resort. You will also leave as a pro on the snow.

Memories of Travel in China

So foreign, so crowded. Children would flock, follow and point at the white guy. Travelling off the tourist paths, even the adults seemed taken back by the foreigner. Many would say something incomprehensible, smile and eagerly appear to wait for a response. Others would frantically confront and yell. Not a legible word in sight, symbols all around, if it weren’t for Roger (Chinese friend from University) I would have been lost, ripped off and terrified.

Everywhere, in all directions, buildings climbed to the sky. People poured in and out of anywhere and everywhere. Street workers prepared food, dragged enormous containers behind bikes and odd three wheel scooters and cleaners scoured the streets. Breakfast could be bought by the side of the road for 18 Australian cents at the time, or bought in a restaurant for hundreds of dollars.

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It was mid afternoon, and we were about to see off a friend from Beijing. With too many bags, it was only polite that we helped her on the train before saying goodbye. A moment later the train departed, at around 250km/h for over 4 hours, with Roger and I on it and wondering how the hell we were meant to get back. The next morning we were booked to head up to the Great Wall which was now not even a possibility.

We were young and relatively care free. It wasn’t hard to make light of a tricky situation. These things happen abroad, not once has a trip ever gone perfectly to plan. The conductor began inspecting tickets and despite Rogers explanation of our situation insisted that we must pay, and so we did. 4 hours later and entirely unprepared, we got off the train. The temperature was way below zero (I want to say negative 20 Celsius though that sounds ridiculous). Our friend felt terrible and her family had brought us some basics to get back with, snacks, rubix cube and some cards etc.

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But things now got really interesting. We had already had an encounter with thieves, and got away with all of our belongings, but the only way back was on an economy class train and would take over 12 hours. We took our seats and it was immediately obvious that I was a high risk, all eyes were on me, and what I had on me. Roger translated the conductors ramblings, most of which warned of thievery and to be aware. Not 10 minutes later we upgraded. GTFO. Not that the upgrade was that much better. We had crappy beds and were at least away from most of the people.

We got back to Beijing safely. Needles to say had to see the Great Wall another day. But we’re just glad to be safe and not too far off schedule.