A mechanical system used to transport skiers and snowboarders up a short slope. It consists of two end stations, each with a horizontal or vertical wheel which the rope circles to form a loop at about waist level. One of the wheels is driven by an electric or diesel motor, causing the rope to move along with it. If the length of the tow is long enough, the system may need a way to keep the rope taut. This is normally achieved by having one wheel on sliding tracks and connected to a counterweight which offsets the changes in weight as people hold on to and let go of the rope. Rope tows are much cheaper than a chairlift for a ski resort to install, but they can only be used over short distances because they cannot have towers to support the rope along the way.

Usually a rope tow is found on the bunny hill, so as a beginner it will be the first transportation you are indroduced to on the mountain. This is somewhat unfortunate, as many people find a rope tow more difficult to use than a chairlift because it requires you to maintain your balance along the whole trip rather than just getting on and off. Occasionally a rope tow will also be used to transport people up short slopes between chairlifts.

To use a ropetow, approach the bottom and line up next to the rope moving up the slope. Place your hands loosely around the rope, but do not grip it. Make sure your skis or snowboard are parallel to the rope, your knees are bent a little and you are balanced. Slowly grip the rope tighter while transfering your weight slighly to the back in anticipation of the forward jerk you are about to receive. Once you are holding the rope tightly, it will drag you up the slope. Be sure to keep your knees bent to absorb bumps along the way and try to stay balanced. The path will probably be fairly rutted from other users, so be prepared to maneuver your skis or snowboard a little. You will also notice that the tension on the rope and the speed will change slightly as people get on and off - be prepared for this! Unless you have amazing natural talent, you will fall down your first couple of times. Don't worry about it, everyone does it. Just get up and try again. When you are more comfortable on the snow in general, using the rope tow becomes much easier.

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