Tips Up

I know that most of the submissions on this site are for accidents that happen on the mountain, but mine takes place slightly before.  Chairlifts are one of the fastest, most efficient means of getting up the mountain. More versatile than J-lifts and able to travel farther distances, they’ve become the gold standard for traversing steeps and reaching the peak. Unfortunately, chairlifts can be dangerous. Limited security and the lack of restraints can cause inexperienced skiers to fall, sometimes sustaining serious injuries in the process. Luckily, this is not the foundation for my chairlift “Blue Room” story. Mine is a lot dumber. 

I used to ski with a pretty big group of friends. The eight of us would take up two full quad chairs, and we’d often board one after the other. Order was always random, but I tended to like getting in the first chair; getting to the peak before the second half of the group, even if just by thirty seconds, always provided a few moments of peace before the eight of us started heading down. I’d push myself to the front of the group and try to snag one of the side seats—I hated sitting in the middle. 

Unfortunately, a large group of college-aged men is kind of a recipe for disaster. We were reckless on the mountain, shooting over trail lips without surveying the terrain, bombing past beginners, and racing each other through trees and glades. This roughhousing also applied to our lifts up. While we never endangered each other on the chairlifts, there was always some light pushing and shoving when it was time to board.  

So, here’s what happened. Four of us were about to sit in the first lift, and the other four were skating up behind to catch the second. Those of us in front had our torsos turned around to talk/lightly jab at the four behind. I had my side seat and was trying to elbow the friend directly behind me—in jest, of course. This stupidity ended up putting me in a pretty tough situation.  

I hadn’t been paying close attention to the chair swinging around to pick us up. Still preoccupied with teasing my friend, I was caught by surprise—the chairlift hit while I was still standing. Rather than knocking me onto the seat, I fell forward, faceplanting onto the packed powder. Before the operator could stop the chairlift, It was directly over my body. It had clicked off my skis, so my legs were safe, but it plowed right over me. Once the operator stopped the lift, I was able to stand up (unscathed) and survey the damage. My skis and body were fine, but the lift had caught my planted pole, bending it at a 90-degree angle. I stupidly held the bent piece of metal up to my friends, who promptly burst into laughter. I’m lucky the damage wasn’t more severe (quad chairs are heavy and strong), but damn, they will never let me live that down.