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Lift Types

Written by Dugald Morrow   
Wednesday, 07 July 2004

Skicow categorizes the various types of lifts to help summarise the uphill capacity of ski areas. This page describes the various types of lifts.


Passenger Cabin Lifts:

Passenger cabin lifts refers to enclosed lifts in which passengers generally stand without their skis on. The specific types of lifts in this category include:

Cable car (or aerial tramway):


Cable cars involve large passenger cabins suspended by aerial cables. The cables taking the weight of the cabins are fixed, whilst other cables provide the haulage. Due to the permanent attachment of the haulage cable, cable cars have to come to a complete stop to allow passengers to alight and embark.

Cables cars have the benefit of requiring fewer towers, but are more susceptible to high winds.



The gondola lift consists of a rotating aerial cable suspending passenger cabins. The cable usually travels at relatively high speed and the passenger cabins detach at the embarkment and disembarkment points. Alternatively, pulse gondolas involve the cable changing speed to allow for passengers to enter and leave the cabins safely, whilst still allowing for an overall fast transit time.




Funitels consist of large passenger cabins hanging on by 4 points to a pair of cables. This arrangement provides greater stability and haulage capacity. The cabins detach from the cables at the embarkment and disembarkment points.  Funitels are a suitable for busy ski resorts because of the high uphill capacity they support.




A funicular is a type of cable railway. A cable providing the haulage attaches to two cabins that counterbalance each other.

High Speed Chairlift:


High speed chairlifts (also known as detachable chairlifts) are similar to standard chairlifts, except the chairs detach from the cable at the end stations. This allows for a high cable speed yet slow speed through the stations for alighting and disembarking.

The seating capacity of high speed chairlifts ranges from 2 to 8. Those with a seating capacity of four are commonly known as detachable quads.

This category also includes a relatively new type of lift called a Telemix. A Telemix (also known as a hybrid lift) is similar to a detachable chairlift, except that it consists of both gondola cabins and detachable chairs on the same circuit. This allows less experienced skiers and non-skiers to use the lift without the hassle of embarking and disembarking from moving chairs whilst still allowing skiers to avoid removing their skis by using the chairs instead of the goldolas.


Standard Chairlift:


A chairlift consists of a circulating steel cable suspending chairs upon which skiers sit. The cable is generally suspended by towers and driven by diesel-electric motors at the end stations.

Chairlifts are quite common since they are efficient and safe. They come in a variety of seating capacities of which two-person chairlifts are the most common.


Surface Lifts:

Surface lifts refers to lifts that carry skiers along the surface of the mountain. The specific types of lifts in this category include:



A t-bar is similar to a chairlift except that the chair is replaced by a t-shaped bar which pulls the skiers up the mountain. Each t-bar has a capacity of two although it is possible to ride a t-bar solo.


Platter lift:


A platter lift is similar to a t-bar except a platter (disc) replaces the t-shaped bar. The platter is placed between the skiers legs which means the platter can only tow one person at a time. Platter lifts are tiring for snowboarders to take because they place the platter behind the top of their front leg and hold it in position with their hands. 


Rope Tow:


A rope tow is similar to a t-bar except that the cable is suspended at about waist height and is held on to directly by the skiers. Like a t-bar and platter lift, the cable rotates so the skier only needs to hold onto the cable and they will eventually arrive at the top.


Magic Carpet:

The magic carpet lift is essentially a conveyer belt on which skiers board at the bottom with skis facing forwards (uphill). Magic carpets are limited to shallow grades because to reduce the possibility of the skiers slipping backwards on the belt. Magic carpets are generally considered to be the least threatening type of ski lift as there is no fear of altitude and the perceived risk of falling over is less than that of tow lifts.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 17 November 2007 )


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