Ski lifts are the answer to generations of skiers’ prayers for an easier way to get to the top of a mountain to enjoy a wild run down than trudging up on foot, carrying skis, or sweating blood skiing uphill with skins attached to the bottoms of the skis so they wouldn’t slip backward.

Lifts come in various styles:

Rope Tow: A primitive form of lift, the rope tow is occasionally found at beginner areas. It’s an endless rope looped around a power source

at one end and a revolving wheel at the other. Skiers edge up alongside, tuck their ski poles under one arm, and grab hold of the moving rope, which pulls them uphill. The first lifts up narrow, icy New England trails were rope tows, with the jacked-up back wheel of a Model T Ford truck providing power.

Poma Lift: This is a pole, dangling from an overhead cable, with a rounded seat at the bottom. Skiers tuck the seat between their legs and let it pull them uphill. They don’t sit on the seat.

T-Bars: It looks like an inverted T hanging from an overhead cable. The T-bar is designed for either one person or two at once. The T crosses the skiers’ butts and pulls them uphill. They don’t sit on the bar.

Chairlifts: Chairlifts were invented in 1936 by an engineer employed in building Sun Valley. Several years earlier he’d built banana lifts to carry stalks of bananas, hooked onto an endless cable, from the docks to the deck of a freighter. He thought that a similar system, using chairs instead of hooks, could carry skiers to the top of a mountain. When Sun Valley opened, so did the first chairlift in the world.

The original lift had single chairs facing sideways. Chairlifts now generally carry from two to four skiers.

Detachable Chairlifts: The latest improvement in lifts is chairs that detach from the fast-moving overhead cable and slow to a crawl as they move through the loading area. This makes it easy for a skier to get on. As the chairs leave the loading area they snap onto the cable. The seats detach at the summit, moving slowly through the unloading area, making it simple for the most novice of skiers to stand up and slide off. The empty chairs then rejoin the main cable for a swift trip back to the impatient skiers at the base of the mountain.

In addition to being simple to get on and off, detachable lifts have another advantage: They travel at a far greater speed than do standard lifts, substantially shortening the ride to the summit.

Four-passenger detachable quads are the most popular of these lifts, but some seat only three, and a few seat six.

Cable Cars. These are enclosed cars that, using the same principle as the detachable chairlifts, usually carry from four to eight skiers. At Killington, the cable cars are not only individually painted in attractive patterns but also heated and enlivened with music.

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