Enjoy our latest video release above which highlights a day in the life of a JHMR lifty. While the video and the blog below are on the same topic, they are only related in the nature of their topic. Enjoy the words following as you peak into the day to day life of a lifty.
My morning began just like it does every day in the winter, before sunrise and on the START bus. However, on this day I wasn’t headed to my desk in the JHMR administration building, I was headed up ‘the worker tram’ at 8:12 AM to spend the day as a lift operator. I’d had friends who had been ‘lifties’ for years so I wanted to see what all the talk was about and let’s be honest, I had to know how long I could bump the infamous Thunder chair (spoiler alert: not that long). When I got the invitation from the Lift Operations team, I figured it was an opportunity that I could not pass up.
As we arrived at the top of the Tram the doors open, cold wind blows and the team of lifties await the word from Ski Patrol to begin their opening exercises, aka being the first people to drop into the fresh corduroy or fresh powder, every single day. We talked benefits before and I can tell these guys enjoy this portion of their day. Who wouldn’t? Fresh tracks are followed by set up at every lift. They don’t have a long time before the public is on their way itching to get up.
On a normal day, lifties are given hour breaks to ski or ride, eat lunch, or simply enjoy some downtime before jumping back into their work rotation. These rotations involve an hour at the base terminal bumping chairs, an hour at the top terminal making sure guests unload safely, and an hour of break time or other on mountain work. You can understand why someone might be so inclined to enjoy their job when potentially 1/3 of their time is spent on skis.
On this day, however, my time was spent at Thunder chairlift. We went through the motions of setting up the maze, preparing the loading area, and most importantly, getting the music dialed in. This is an important part of the job and I soon found that whoever is bumping the chairs, chooses the music. So if you enjoy the music at the lift, let them know! As my turn approached, we found a nice tune from Steely Dan and I was on my way to bumping my first chair. I won’t lie, the first chair nearly took my head off. The chair at Thunder is the heaviest on the hill, at nearly 600 pounds. I would soon find out “bumping” the chair was more like a full body workout or getting tackled by a defensive lineman. I didn’t last my entire hour as scheduled, but the workers Andrew and Grayson (thanks guys!) were kind enough to give me a reprieve as more skiers arrived. Side note: I was incredibly sore the following morning from bumping chairs for a ‘short period of time.’
After spending some more time with the lifties atop the Thunder lift and around other lifts, you couldn’t help but notice the camaraderie that keeps them motivated and energized. Lift supervisors, lift mechanics, groomers, ski patrol, and ski instructors all seemed to bond together on the hill as if they were in it together and in a sense, they are. Plans for the weekend came up, plans for apres were discussed. Whether you were a local, visitor, employee, or guest, the ‘men in black’ (uniforms for lift operators) greeted you and sent you on your way.
It didn’t take long after those tram doors closed and we began to ascend to the top of Rendezvous Mountain for me to realize why these folks love their job. It’s rather simple actually: the camaraderie and the benefits. Each employee on the Tram that morning was a part of something bigger, they were the gateway to others dreams, as without them there was no skiing today. They were a tight-knit group and everyone knew their role. You had veterans of 30 years chatting with first-year employees and that means something. There were laughs and jokes of course, but there was also a sense of teamwork and pride that ran through the group.
Next time you’re on the hill, remember a “thanks for the bump” or “thanks for keeping our kids safe” goes a long way. These folks brave the often tough weather to make sure we are happy (skiing) and safe.
For that, thank you to all the lift operators here at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, for without you there is no skiing.