Lift line vendors: How is this not a thing?

I’m sharing with you an idea that I can’t believe isn’t already in practice at so many ski areas: Lift line vendors.

Why isn’t there someone with a beer cooler (like at sports stadiums all over the country) that walks through the maze of anxious skiers and riders offering them beers, snacks and more?

I’ll set the scene as it should have been:

It’s a powder day at (made up ski resort name) Rowdy Ridge and hundreds are waiting restlessly in line at the base of the legendary (made up lift name) Pillow Express chair.

Patrol is busy making the mountain safe and lift crews are digging out the massive snowfall from the day before.

The lift line at Squaa…I mean Rowdy Ridge to get on the KT….I mean Pillow Express chair. (MSJ)

Guests are in for a good 90-minute to 2-hour wait at the base and they need to kill some time.

“Beer here!” I scream, hailing the beer vendor walking through the maze. We buy beers (preferably the resealable kind in case the line starts moving) for everyone in our crew to enjoy while we wait.

We soak in the beautiful powder day and enjoy a beer in the lift line. All of a sudden, the wait doesn’t seem so bad and we’re making friends in the process. Plus, the resort, or the individual vendor, just made some money off us while we’re doing something that, otherwise, doesn’t generate any revenue.

Now, here’s the scene without a lift line vendor:

It’s a powder day at Rowdy Ridge and hundreds are waiting restlessly in line at the base of the legendary Pillow Express chair.

Patrol is busy making the area safe and lift crews are digging out the massive snowfall from the day before.

Guests are in for a good 90-minute to 2-hour wait at the base and they need to kill some time.

“What is the hold up?” I mutter to my mates. “How hard can this be? Just open the chair.”

What is the hold up? (MSJ)

The coffee and breakfast burritos consumed an hour earlier are working their way through the bodies of the hundreds of people stacked on top of each other waiting for the chair to run. Everyone is ornery and there’s no reprieve until the powers that be spin the chair.

The guy behind me is adjusting his gloves and let go of his poles. He inadvertently slides onto the back of my skis. A simple, harmless mistake that I take as a personal insult. I don’t say anything, I just scoff and eye roll, my Midwestern passive aggressiveness shining through.

There are no social beers in this scenario. There are no good ways to pass the time. There is no added revenue for the resorts or a vendor.

Why adopt this idea?

The lift line vendor idea, of course, benefits the skier. It gives them something to do when they wait in what seem like increasingly long lines at popular resorts. It makes the experience slightly more social and lubricates the bad attitudes that sprout up when humans wait in line.

Also, this could benefit the resort. You have “ambassadors” standing out there offering directions to people on where to grab their rentals, where to get their tickets and what lifts to ride, so why not have some of those people helping ease the tension in line?

If it’s not a resort-run operation, let a few, licensed, independent vendors do it. “There aren’t enough jobs in ski towns,” is something we hear all the time. Let some budding entrepreneur sell something the people actually want and make your ski area a better place in the process.

Why not incorporate lift line vendors?

For one, selling things to people in line could hold up the line and not everyone can both carry their beer and advance through the maze. If it’s a gondola line and you have to hold your skis, forget about it for a novice skier.

Giving thirsty skiers cans or bottles of beer in line also could create a trash problem, too. Even with trash bins placed in the maze, the worst of humanity will still find a way to make the planet worse given the chance.

Finally, adding these vendors could be a slippery slope if not done correctly. You don’t want a situation where you have dozens of vendors hawking jewelry, apparel and other random nonsense. The solution, of course, is to license a limited amount of vendors to sell products from the resort.

Now, this idea would only really have legs at a place with overcrowding. Put it at Jackson Hole, Vail or Snowbird and you’re in business. Put it at Wolf Creek or Whitefish and skiers won’t wait long enough for it to work.

Maybe it’s just a Christmas Week/Spring Break joint, or possibly it ebbs and flows with traffic. However it would be used, I think it’s an idea that could alleviate the worst part of skiing (standing in line) and make it something tolerable, if not fun.

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