There are no days off. Much like snowmaking and grooming at Holiday Valley, the Lift Maintenance crew works early mornings and late nights to ensure the lifts keep spinning. They don’t get a lot of credit, but they deserve it.
“My guys come in at 7am on the weekdays and 6:30am on the weekends,” said Jim Curtis, head of the lift maintenance crew. “When they get here, they go check out all of the lifts for the day and make sure they’re ready to go. Safety inspections, line checks, making sure snowmaking hasn’t iced up the cables - it’s all part of the checks we do to start the day.”
Once the bottom opens up, a crew member will ride the line to the top and unlock that. Once all of that gets done and the lifts get a full rotation, they’re open to the public for use.
“I assign all of the lists. There are ones for daily, weekly and monthly. The crew will float from lift to lift until all of them have been checked - typically, we have four guys on during the week and five on the weekends.”
With Mother Nature deciding she wanted to wait on winter and dump all of the snow on us at once (not complaining), the crews have been busy doing not just typical lift checks, but more labor-intensive things as well - such as shoveling snow off of the lift house roofs and de-icing the cables.
“If a lift goes down, we’ve got 15 minutes to get it back up and running,” Curtis explained. “If the problem can’t be solved within 15 minutes, we shut it down for a full diagnosis.”
But what happens if there are skiers/snowboarders on the lift when it shuts down?
“We’ve got auxiliary motors for every lift,” Curtis said. “It’s a combination of gas and electric, but the point is that we can run it until we’ve cleared off all of our guests. If (knock on wood) that motor fails, then we work with Ski Patrol (the red jackets) to do a full lift evacuation. Fortunately, the latter happens very rarely - if ever - because of how diligent we are in keeping the auxiliary motors working.”
As complex as the fixed lifts are, the detachable are even more so. These are Mardi Gras, Tannenbaum and Morning Star - the high-speed quads. With thousands of different moving pieces, the lift crews have to be well versed in the mechanics of the beast.
“When we hire, we look for guys that have a pretty solid mechanical background because of how complex some of this stuff is,” Curtis said. “If they’ve got electrical, even better. The winter side of it is easy, because we just need to go through our checklists. The real work starts when the season ends, because we’ve got to take every grip off, do some non-destructive testing, etc. The crew works really hard over all four seasons to make sure our lifts run smoothly day-in and day-out.”
Holiday Valley hosts a service training seminar every year, where crews from multiple resorts across the state will come and go through different techniques and training. There is also a rotating seminar that goes across the state, one of which Curtis teaches. He sends two of the crew to Jiminy Peak every winter, where there’s more lift maintenance training. They work with Ski Patrol every year to get lift evacuation techniques dialed in and refreshed.
“I like to call my crew the unsung heroes of the resort,” Curtis said. “Everyone here plays such an integral part in how successful of an operation we are. We see the instructors, snowmaking crew, groomers, etc. - but a lot of guests don’t see my guys working. They deserve a lot of credit, and I’m lucky to have them.”