(Photo: Vallugabahn Tram, St Anton, Austria)
It might seem odd for a skier, but I actually have a thing about heights. High, wide open spaces really get to me. Put me on top of a very high peak with steep drop-offs all around, for example, and I can’t wait to get down. Which is probably not a bad thing.
The thing is, I’m not alone. A lot of skiers tell me they have height issues, too, particularly with ski lifts. So I asked the Ski Divas to talk about the lifts that scare them the most, and here are some of the ones they mentioned (the comments that follow belong to them):
La Soliel Lift, Tremblant, Quebec: The lift goes over a ravine about two-thirds of the way up, so it’s very high off the ground. I just keep looking at the next hump and try to ignore the bottom. Haven’t ridden that chair by myself; usually it’s too busy, so that’s good.
Millicent Chair, Brighton, Utah: It’s an old two-seater with no safety bar, and it crosses about 200 feet above a cliff and bowl area. We affectionately call it “The Chair of Death.” My husband told the PR guy that his butt hurt after that ride, from squeezing his cheeks to stay on the lift.
The double chair that serves both Eagle’s Nest and Thunder Mtn, Whitecap, Wisconsin: There’s a long, long, long stretch where you’re quite a ways up between the two peaks, and it’s a two-seater with molded plastic seats so you feel like you’re gonna slide off the entire time.
KT-22, Squaw Valley, California: It’s so awful my husband refused to go on it with me!
Mineral Basin Express, Snowbird, Utah: As you’re coming up to the top, it looks like you’re going to slide right off the end of the world since it dumps you off at the ridgeline with all of Peruvian Basin and Salt Lake City right in front of you. The first time I took it there didn’t appear to be enough exit area to ski away from the lift safely.
Alpauris, Alpe D’Huez, France: We were told the English speakers call it the “Scare Chair.” You jump on, go under an innocuous concrete bridge and then……eeeeeeeek!…..plunge down the side of the mountain to the bottom and then up the other side. There’s no way to avoid it in either direction as it’s the only way to this particular part of the ski area. So…on the way back….same process.. I have to close my eyes.
Vallugabahn Tram, St Anton, Austria. (see main photo above) It crosses a valley and there’s a massive drop in the middle. Just a void. I spent a whole season there and refused to ride it, even once.
Peak-to-Peak Gondola, Whistler, BC. I was there the first season it opened. The rest of the gang decided that we should take one of the glass bottomed cabins over. I scrunched myself up in a corner and tried to look at the sky, mountain tops…anywhere but down! It was also fairly hair-raising when it was windy.
Lone Peak Tram, Big Sky, Montana: This is a personal bugaboo of mine. They call it the “tin can,” and that’s sort of what it is: a little can suspended very, very high off the ground. The last part ascends a steep rock face, which scares the hell out of me. I spend the whole time studying my ski boots instead of looking out the window.
The Lift, Silverton, Colorado: This is a double that goes up terrain with a minimum of 30 degrees, almost 2,000 vertical feet. It’s disturbingly far from the ground and there’s no safety bar. Backpacks with a shovel and probe are required, so you’re squeezed onto a tiny rickety chair with no bar and a sizeable pack on your lap, and at the top there’s a steep dropoff and tight lefthand turn to navigate while swinging the pack onto your back. Ugh.
Red Dog chair, Squaw Valley: I’m afraid of heights and this one got to me. At the point where it crosses a ravine, I looked across and above at the chairs coming down. Gave me terrible vertigo and freaked me out!