The Whole Summer Was Spent Getting Ready For Winter.

Reassembling parts takes time and patience.
Credit: Harriet Wallis

It’s 80 degrees at Deer Valley. Mountain snow melted long ago. A summer breeze rustles leaves on the aspen trees and wafts through the open doors of the maintenance shop. The crew wears shorts and T-shirts. It’s mid-July.

Gears and gizmos cover the work benches, and the crew is meticulously polishing, calibrating and lubricating the parts. It’s virtually open heart surgery on the inner workings of a ski lift.

“We work eight months to be open for four months of skiing,” said Deer Valley’s Lift Maintenance Manager Jeffrey Miller. “All of us in this industry do a great job. We’re well aware of how many bottoms are in the air.”

Maintenance also deals with rubber parts that get worn, such as belts. Weather, wind and temperature can affect alignments. Even identical lifts can wear differently. Lift maintenance is complicated. It’s part science, part skill and part art.

It takes a lot of work to refurbish parts.
Credit: Harriet Wallis

Deer Valley’s talented crew keeps the resort’s 25 lifts running smoothly.

But there’s more. Just like your car gets its 60,000 mile service, lift components must be inspected, reconditioned and rebuilt at various frequencies, Miller said.

“For example, certain lift manufacturers require that sheave assemblies be rebuilt every six years. Brakes should be completely torn down, inspected and rebuilt every four years. Gearboxes and final drives get reconditioned on an hour basis, right around the 12,000 hours.”

Got that? It’s a complex schedule.

In spite of all the tedious maintenance, a breakdown can happen. The needed part — many of which are huge — might not be in storage. But a nearby resort might have that part. “We’re a tight-knit group much like a family. We reciprocate by sharing parts,” Miller said.

This is a job for four hands.
Credit: Harriet Wallis.

All this so you can enjoy your ski day.

But the work doesn’t stop when summer ends. When we ski, we’re always looking up – looking at the lift mechanisms, he said. And we periodically sample the oil to see what’s in it and we check tension adjustments.

Get ready to ski. Deer Valley’s lifts and the lifts at your favorite resort had their summer work outs.

To read more from Harriet click here for her stories on SkiUtah.



  1. Harriet
    I know nothing about lift maintenance but was always curious. Thanks for the article.

  2. Great to see lift maintenance getting some airtime, it is a vital part of a ski area’s operations but not often given enough recognition by skiers or ski area management.
    Thank you

  3. John Pakulis says:

    Hi Harriet,

    Re: Lift maintenance and its importance.

    First, let me thank you for the article, Lift Maintenance 101, and all your prior excellent submissions. (I still have your checklist for evaluating knee surgeons).

    A family ski trip to Winter Park, CO last January, found us unexpectedly at nearby Granby Ski Ranch for an unplanned day of snowboarding lessons. A bluebird day, it was a picture perfect adventure.

    Later that evening we came across the devastating news that a couple of weeks earlier, a mother and her 2 children had been tossed off the Quick Draw Express chair lift, at Granby, resulting in the immediate death of the Mom, and injuries to the children. Also, we learned about the near-tragic event at Arapahoe Basin, where a skier was accidently hanged by the neck from the lift chair by the straps on his backpack, and was miraculously rescued by a slackliner. Additionally, there was another dramatic chair lift/backpack incident at Sundance.

    So why am I writing this note to you? Obviously, it pertains to lift maintenance and safety. And, after a lifetime of not pulling down the safety bar (and wearing backpacks) on chair lifts, I’ve changed my behavior significantly. Although the risks of such tragedies are statistically remote, I think the readership might appreciate the latest information on such incidents, and what simple measures might be involved in prevention.

    I suspect that the editorial approach to this publication might prohibit such stories, as most of the entries understandably emphasize the upbeat aspects of skiing, but nonetheless, consider this note my attempt to have as skilled a writer as you address these issues in future SeniorSkiing articles.

    So, again, thanks for all your contributions.

    Keep up the great work.



    • Michael Maginn says:

      Thanks, John, this is important and it needs to be said. Our editorial approach does not prohibit stories like this, by the way. We need to hear from all legitimate voices.

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