A mechanical system used to transport skiers and snowboarders up (and down) a mountain. Chairs are suspended from a cable which runs the length of the lift. The chairs may seat two to four people and have a safety bar which comes down in front of riders similar to a rollercoaster. Chairlifts are operated by a lifty who is responsible for helping people get on and off the lift, among other things.

A number of lift towers - large metal posts with a crossbar on top - support the cable at intervals along the run. The stations at each end have large horizontal wheels which the support cable runs around to form a complete loop. Normally one end station will also have an electric or diesel drive motor which causes its wheel to turn and thus force the cable to move as well.

Different systems exists for keeping the cable taut so that your chair doesn't hit the ground. Usually one end station has its wheel on sliding tracks and connected to a counterweight which offsets the changes in weight as people get on and off.

While generally safe, injuries are fairly common, and deaths from chairlift accidents are not unheard of. Most injuries occur getting on and off when people fall over or mistime the chair. Occasionally people will fall from height due to unsafe activities like not lowering the safety bar or rocking the chair. Mechanical failure is also possible and usually involves the chair seperating from the cable.

If you take the chairlift enough, you'll no doubt experience the unpleasant occurance of shutdowns while you are on the chair. This is most often caused by someone falling getting on or off the chair and ending up in a dangerous situation. In these cases the lifty will shut down the chair with an emergency switch while they clear the problem. Luckily this rarely lasts very long. Unfortunately, failure of the drive motors sometimes occurs which leaves you hanging in the air for long periods of time while they make repairs. In extreme situations, you may need to be removed from the chair by ladder if they cannot repair it.

Riding the chairlift is also a great place to meet people, especially if you're skiing or boarding alone. Often single riders will get moved up the waiting line faster and paired up with other "singles" or "doubles" to fill up the chairs. This is a good opportunity to chat with the person next to you, as you'll be sitting with them for a few minutes. You can get information about conditions or runs you're not familiar with, swap experiences, or share a joint.