This story originally appeared in the Winter 2020 (49.2) issue of POWDER.
Need a joke? How about some trivia? Maybe a riddle? Perhaps you’ve misplaced your season pass and didn’t even realize it. Drop a glove while lighting that rollie? Lost a child? Your husband? Maybe you’re just looking for some amateur ski art to inspire you.
What you need to do is to consult an inimitable multimedia hub: the ski lift whiteboard. That’s where, at the bottom of any chair worth its salt, in impermanent, dry-erasable ink, you’ll find what you’re looking for—or, more likely, what you weren’t looking for at all.
Because the ski lift dry-erase board is full of surprises. After all, it’s truly the manifestation of ski lift operations as art—the best example of why the occupation is unlike any other. That’s because while on the job, lifties are in the business of customer service, crowd management, emergency communication, comedy, and visual graphics. If they’re any good, they’re also trivia hosts. The whiteboard is their canvas.
And while it’s true that ubiquitous cell phone coverage, even on the backside of a mountain in the middle of the San Juans, has removed some of the core functionality of the ski lift dry-erase board, there’s no central app for a stranger to communicate that they have your goggles.
I suppose it’s possible, if you’re the type of person who likes to look at your phone while you’re in the natural glory of the mountains, that you might get a text about your buddy Chad waiting for you to take him to the hospital because he slipped in his ski boots while leaving the bar, but it’s more likely that you’ll just see the message on the dry-erase board at the bottom of the Peak Gnar Chair that says, “Hey, Sally, head to ski patrol. They have Chad again.”
Consider the whiteboard your communication tool. That smorgasbord of lifty whimsy is also home to all the information you should need. And that makes it easier to safely tune out and just focus on what you came here for in the first place: the skiing.
But anyway, the bigger point is this:
What’s the difference between a lifty and a pizza?
The pizza can feed a family of four.
I learned that from a ski lift-dry erase board.
John Clary Davies lives in Taos, New Mexico. He is probably drunk right now, toasting all the incredible skiers he met through Powder’s indelible run.