Ski Lifts

Wednesday, 29 November 2017  |  Jen - Escape 2

Ski lifts can be a daunting prospect when skiing for the first time! Prepare for your first ski holiday with this run-down of the three most popular ski lifts - the button, chair and bubble - complete with 'How To' advice.

Button Lift  (a.k.a. Drag Lift, Poma)

A 'button' on an upright section tows you to the top. You stay on your skis, lock your knees in place and hold on with one hand. DON'T SIT DOWN though, otherwise you'll end up in a heap!

A good pair of ski gloves allows you to move your hands easily, grippy palms will make holding on easier, and high quality insulation will keep hands warmer, for a trouble-free drag lift ride.

Probably the first ski lift you'll use to reach the top of the nursery slopes. Once you know how, it's really easy, but it can take a little practice!

How To Use a Button Lift

  • Have your ski lift pass in a sleeve pocket on your left hand side and present it to the scanner on the barrier.
  • When the person in front has mounted their button and is exiting the starting area, shuffle forwards, towards the lift.
  • Remove ski pole loops from your wrists and put both poles in your left hand.
  • Now, shuffle your skis around so that they're running exactly parallel to each other, and to the direction in which the button will tow you.
  • With your skis a good hip width apart and facing the direction of travel, look over your right shoulder, the buttons will come from behind you, keep watching the next one approaching you.
  • Catch the pole/upright of the button in your right hand, and in one move, pull the button around between your legs....
  • Close your thighs around the button/upright bar section, BUT DO NOT SIT DOWN on it!! The button will sit behind your bottom, so with your knees and legs locked into straight position, creating a firm base. You'll be propelled forward in the direction your skis are pointing, so make sure they are facing exactly where you intend to go!
  • Keep your skis flat on the snow, hip width apart, and parallel. Press your shins into the front of the ski boots. Hold both ski poles in your left hand.
  • Keep a grip on the upright bar, as you whizz effortlessly uphill. You don't need to be holding on for dear life - the pull is coming from behind you, so by keeping your knees locked in position, you'll continue sliding uphill - whether you're holding the bar or not.
  • Watch the person in front of you - as you approach final section of the ski lift - there will be a signpost alerting you of the finish.
  • On reaching the top, you'll feel the slope in front of you going downhill. At this point, with a firm hold of the upright bar in your right hand, open your legs slightly, pull the button down and out from between your legs. Hold on to it for a moment, then release it to the right.
  • Your skis will be facing forward, and because you waited for a downhill slope, you'll glide forward.
  • Walk/shuffle/ski to the side, away from the top of the ski lift, giving the skier behind you plenty of space.
  • When you reach a halt, step your skis carefully around (parallel; without knocking them against each other) to face the direction of the piste you want to ski.  And off you go!


Skis are kept on for the duration of a chairlift ride, providing a short rest on the ascent. Newer, high speed chairlifts detach from their mechanism in lift stations, allowing easier on/off. Some have hoods that can be pulled down for extra weather protection. Older ones carry fewer passengers and can be trickier to get on, as they don't slow down as much; don't worry though, there will be a ski lift attendant to help!

The best ski jackets and ski trousers will keep you protected from mountain conditions on long chairlift rides. Look for waterproofness to keep you dry in blizzards, windproofness to fend off windchill, and insulation to lock warmth in. Extra features like snowskirts and wrist seals add extra cold-proofing that'll be welcome while sitting on a chairlift.

Using a Chairlift

  • Queue-up, shuffle along, with ski poles in one hand, until you reach the barrier.
  • Proceed immediately as the barrier opens.
  • Stick to your lane and look behind for the chair.
  • Be ready and sit down as it reaches the back of your legs. Sit at the back of the seat. The chair will scoop you up and away.
  • Help pull the safety bar down from behind your head with your fellow passengers; then rest skis on the bar beneath you.
  • On reaching signs alerting you the top is approaching, take skis off the footrest, ready to lift the safety bar.
  • Signs will tell you when to lift the safety bar. Don't lift it up early.
  • With poles in one hand, when your skis touch the snow, stand up, and push firmly off the chair with your free hand.
  • Ski off decisively and straight, being aware which way fellow skiers are travelling.
  • Ski quickly away from the top of the ski lift before snow ploughing to a stop and organising yourself.

Bubble Lift (a.k.a. Gondala, Cable Car)

A swift ride to the top. To use this ski lift, take off skis, walk into a 'Bubble' carriage and get whisked to the top. Although there's the inconvenience of removing skis and carrying them, you'll be inside for the duration - a welcome chance to warm up, and have a drink or snack.

Anti-fog ski goggles make the world of difference to skiing confidence and ability. It's so much easier to ski when you can see where you're going, what's in front of you, and where the lumps and bumps are. The best way to stop ski goggles fogging up, is to leave them in place on your eyes. It's temping to pop them up onto your ski helmet in a bubble lift, but resisting this temptation prevents moisture entering them, rewarding you with clear vision at the start of the piste.

Using a Bubble Lift

  • Take off skis outside the lift building.
  • Lock skis together at the bindings and carry them, being mindful of those around you.
  • Proceed into the ski lift building, 'showing' your ski lift pass to the barrier.
  • Smaller bubble lifts require you to place skis in holders on the exterior of the bubble prior to entering it. On other ski lifts, you'll keep your skis with you, inside the bubble.
  • When it's your turn, as the bubble keeps moving slowly along, its doors will automatically open. Walk in, keep moving to the back, allowing those behind to follow. Sit or stand for the ride and admire stunning views!
  • At the top, the doors will automatically open ready to disembark. Simply pick up your skis and walk out.
  • Carry your skis outside the ski lift building, leaving room for those behind you, and ski on!

Using the Piste Map

After a few days in the mountains, you'll quickly get used to using the different types of ski lifts. Checking a piste map carefully can help plan a route that avoids lift queues at peak times. The piste map also shows opening and closing times for each ski lift, so you'll know when it's time to head back to resort.

Always use a ski helmet and either join a ski school, or employ an instructor in resort to get the most out of your skiing holiday!

Visit our informative webstore to buy ski wear for all the family; ski clothing, women's ski wear, kids' ski wear, ski jackets, ski trousers, ski helmets, ski goggles and ski gloves. At Escape 2, we offer excellent customer service - please phone or email for advice - and popular 'Fast & Free' delivery.

This blog post is for information only and should not be used to replace the tuition of a qualified ski instructor in resort!


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