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.

Wind Hold – A Lifties Perpective

From the moment we woke, outside was completely white. The kind of white that will only vaguely let you see objects within a few meters.

As usual I prepared for work. As a Lifty we don’t get to choose whether or not we go out. If the conditions are horrific, and we are on the roster, we strap on our boards and get out there. On leaving the accommodation there was no suggestion of heavy winds, only the usual calm of the mountain. I set off on foot to Eagle Chairlift (the usual meeting point for all of us Lifties in the morning) where we waited for all the appropriate clearances, loaded the chairs, and went off to work. But this was no ordinary chair ride.

At the base of Eagle Chair everything seemed normal. A little colder than usual perhaps, but nothing extraordinary. Our ascent began and very shortly I could hear the whistle of the wind. By half way up the Chairlift the wind was extremely heavy. All three of us on the chair were gripping the safety bar as it swayed uneasily in the wind. I remember looking at the chairs returning to the bottom swaying so hard that they were nearly hitting the Lifts columns. About three quarters of the way up, Milli (who was sitting beside me), had her helmet blow completely off her head and into the ‘never to be found again’ unknown.

Eventually we all got to the Top of the Chair and grouped by work buddies for the day (the lifts stopped immediately and went on a wind hold that lasted for two straight days). Milli and I were working at a Lift Station that was at the bottom of a blue and black run area, with some very steep terrain. We skated our boards across to the top of the run we needed to take and strapped our other feet in. The wind was horrible, as we stood up and pointed our boards down the mountain, the wind was smashing ice and snow so hard against us that we were being pushed back up hill. We eventually had to make the decision to unstrap our boards and start trekking down very steep and slippery terrain, straight in to the wind, dragging our boards with us. It took about 15 minutes worth of slowly struggling downhill for us to reach a point at which we could actually strap our boards on and get to work at the bottom.

Once we reached the bottom we were immediately notified of the wind hold situation. Basically it was too dangerous to operate the lifts in such extreme conditions. Unless you happen to be a Lifty of course.

During a wind hold, depending on circumstances, Lifties can end up doing a variety of things. During a wind hold at a bottom station with excessive snow means an entirely shovelling work shift. Unfortunately this was that shift, so we picked up our shovels and started digging. I remember the ice being so hard to break that we were using a hammer drill with a giant ice bit trying to break it up.

I remember standing at the base of the slope looking up the mountain. The air at the base was still but I could see the chairs swinging wildly in the wind above. Most notably I remember staring at the slopes as the high winds picked up all the fresh snow and carried it in wind currents, meandering it up the side of the mountain through the natural features and moguls.

wind hold

This was one of the most extreme experiences I have ever had, it wasn’t very fun, but I’m so happy I was there to experience it.