How to ride the chairlift.
Once you’re comfortable with skating, straight glides and j-turns, you’re ready to take the chairlift. Riding the lift can be a massive source of fear for beginners. And it’s no wonder, what with being 30 feet in the air and the possibility of crashing into the innocent bi-standards sitting beside you. But don’t worry, riding the chairlift is something you already know how to do.
Successful chairlift riding involves 4 movements you already know:
If you’re a loyal fan of SnowProfessor.com, you should have already perfected Skating and J-turns. That leaves us will sitting and standing.
Step 1: Practice sitting
Though similar to sitting on the sofa, there are a few variables to consider. You’ll have your front foot strapped into your snowboard, so your leg will be turned sideways. Stand in front of a chair at home and turn your front foot 90 degrees. Now look behind you at the chair and slowly lower to sit. Instead of planting your entire ass on the seat, you’ll touch down with one cheek first – the cheek over your back leg. Once you touch-down, shift your weight so your whole butt is resting on the chair and scoot back.
Step 2: Practice standing up
Using the same chair, rotate your front foot 90 degrees, scootch toward the edge of the chair and roll up on one bun – the cheek of your back leg. Let your back foot just dangle (your front leg will be doing most of the work). Use your arms to push out of the chair (kinda like your 90-year old grandpa getting up) and, when ready, place your back foot on your imaginary stomp pad and coast away.
Step 3: Know chairlift etiquette
Follow the local lift line rules and be courteous. Don’t bash your board against the person in front and, please dear god, alternate. Taking turns will make the whole line go faster. It’s always a good practice to lower the high-back of your back binding. This prevents it from being crushed by the chairlift when you sit down. It only takes a second, but it might save you an annoying and expensive repair.
Step 4: Load the chairlift
When you approach the loading area, watch the people in front of you. Right when the chair passes you, skate forward and stop at the “Load Here” sign. Just move at a normal, calm pace. You don’t need to rush, but you don’t want to dawdle either. Turn to look at the chair approaching from behind. Just like you practiced inside, lower onto one cheek first then scootch to the back of the chair. It’s totally okay to put your arm over the chair to help you get on.
Step 5: Riding the chair
Riding the chair is pretty much just sitting…but with a 15 pound weight on your leg. Lower the safety-bar and get comfy. You can take the load off your front foot by resting your board on your back-leg.
Step 6: Get off the chairlift
When you approach the top, point your snowboard straight and keep your tip up. When the snowboard makes contact with the snow, roll to one cheek and use your arms to rise off the chair (just like getting off the couch). Rest your back foot on the stomp pad and coast away. Use a J-turn if you need to turn, but don’t try to stop by dragging your foot in the snow. You will do the splits, and no one wants that.
- Stay calm. Stand-up and stay still until you naturally come to a stop
- Don’t try to stop yourself. Use a relaxed J-Turn if you need to maneuver around an obstacle
- Keep your foot on your stomp pad (don’t try to stop by dragging it in the snow)
- Don’t worry about the people sitting beside you. Let them know you are a beginner and they should politely stay out of your way
Drills that help if you fall when getting off the chairlift
If you do crash when getting off the lift, here are some drills to smooth things out. Head to the bunny hill and practice J-Turns that start off with a distraction—just like when you ride the chairlift.
- Sit on the snow with just your front foot strapped in. Stand up and quickly turn your board down-hill into a J-turn.
- Start while squatting down, then rise up into a J-turn.
- Hop then do a J-turn
- Raise and lower your back leg a couple times while doing a j-turn
Though it can be a little intimidating, riding the chairlift is easy because you pretty much already know how. Plus, it’s much easier than hiking and opens the door to learn all sorts of new skills, like garlands and turning.
Next step: Get up, Start & Stop