Having recently spent a day skiing in the Swiss Alps, it occurred to me how drastically technology has changed since my childhood.
Most traditional ski lifts have now been replaced by high-speed chairlifts with a throughput of as many as 4000 passengers per hour.
T-bar ski lift nostalgia
I wanted to reflect on this observation and travel back in time with you. Did you know that the world's first ski lift was built in Davos? In 1934, a Zurich engineer devised the world's first ski lift. For the price of 50 Rappen, this ski lift by Gustav Constam would tow skiers some 270 meters uphill.
While this sounds like a revolution at the time, not everyone was equally amused. Religious-minded people regarded T-bar ski lifts as "flirting aids", an existential threat to monogamy. But T-bar ski lifts were a boost for winter tourism, often being used as a USP for hotels nearby a lift.
I still remember how the ski lift operator would hand me the T-bar, holding a cigar in his other hand. And how the "Ländler" folk music would blare from a radio nearby. I remember the small conversations with my grandfather, or with random strangers, on the way to the top. And sometimes, the lift would stop halfway because of teenagers horsing around and falling off their T-bars...
For the most part, this is history now. The latest chairlifts feature
six eight seats, go at insane speeds, and are plastered with advertisements for local hotels and bars. Privacy is pretty much a thing of the past, as you have to share your ride with all these strangers eavesdropping on your conversations.
I wonder how much longer it will take for the iLift, a Google-powered touchscreen informing about slope conditions while delivering ads for sunscreen! Maybe it helps to get over the drawbacks and accept these technological marvels for what they are, as your butt is now being kept nice and toasty on the way to the top...
A classic Swiss comedy clip about a T-bar ski lift:
Please share your memories about T-bar ski lifts in the comments!
(Photos courtesy of skiliftfotos.ch)
Sorry to bother you but I need to correct you on the Swiss ski lifts: 6 seats is quite old fashioned, we now run 8 seaters up our mountains. Don’t believe? Just count the skiers on the picture ;-)
Guess what, there’s a crazy bunch of people taking care of the swiss t-bar heritage – besides my own site skiliftfotos.ch there’s our biggest collector Jakob (skilift-nostalgie.ch), our chief historian Claude (seilbahn-nostalgie.ch) and our youngster Dani (seilbahnbilder.ch). Unfortunately, one of the specialists for the Toggenburg in eastern Switzerland died two weeks ago but you can still see his beautiful photos and even videos on jwalker.ch.
T-Bar up Chaux de Mont in Leysin was a test of skills, balance and determination during the early days of snowboarding in the late ’80’s. Especially on icy sparce snow in the Spring. One would actually get air-bourne twisting in the wind at times with inner thigh burns. Those Darwinian survivors who made it to the top were rewarded with the best views and a chance to go scurrying behind the Tour d’Ai for one of the top hors piste runs in the Alps. Primitive technology created a natural filter for the trulydedicated…
[…] winter, a nostalgic T-bar lift feeds several ski slopes, from adrenaline pumping racing tracks to relaxing paths winding through […]