One man visited every public ski lift in the U.S. and Canada. This is what he learned.

Lift Blog founder says plenty of places with more moose than skiers still exist.

By pretty much any definition, the Moose Mountain ski hill in the Yukon territory of Canada would not be considered a destination resort.

It only opens for a few months in the winter when there’s enough daylight to see the slope, and then only on weekends and only when one of a handful of volunteers can show up. Skiers and snowboarders have their choice of three runs: one green, one blue and one black. A T-bar run with a diesel engine is the only lift — a generous term, considering users never leave the ground.

Yet last week, Peter Landsman, who spends most of every winter at Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Mountain Resort — with its 133 trails, 13 lifts and affluent international clientele — boarded the first of three flights bound for the far northwest corner of Canada. He then drove another 330 miles through remote wilderness, sometimes on gravel highways and often without cell service, before finally reaching Moose Mountain. It took him five days of travel, he estimates, for what amounted to roughly an hour-long visit.

“It takes serious passion,” Landsman said, “to be in the ski business.”

He was referring to the labor of love it takes to keep Moose Mountain running. But he may just as well have been talking about himself.

With the trip to Moose Mountain, Landsman, the founder of LiftBlog.com, has officially visited every public lift in the United States and Canada. The tally includes more than 3,000 lifts across some 750 ski hills. However, it also encompasses chairlifts, gondolas, aerial tramways and T-bars at non-ski areas, like the gondola through the San Diego Zoo and the Sky Ride at Lagoon in Farmington.

And he hasn’t just visited them, he’s researched and documented each one. He takes photos of the bottom and top terminals and any unique features and compiles their histories and statistics, such as their vertical rise and ride times. He then uploads them into the Lift Blog database, which has become an essential tool for ski geeks and industry insiders alike.

(John Howland | Special to the Tribune) Peter Landsman, founder of LiftBlog, caps off his goal of visiting every lift in North America with a trip to Moose Mountain in Canada's Yukon Territory on Friday, June 21, 2024. The endeavor took him to more than 3,000 lifts at 750-plus ski areas over the course of about 30 years.

“On a personal level, I’m impressed by his motivation and being able to pull something like that off,” said Katharina Schmitz, the CEO of liftmaker Doppelmayr. “He’s one of the most knowledgeable lift people out there, and to have access to that information has helped our business quite a lot already.”

Schmitz was among a collection of Utah ski geeks and insiders who surprised Landsman at the gate of his connecting flight last Saturday at the Salt Lake City Airport. They served cake and hauled through security an array of mementos, including a Ski Utah Silver Pass and a massive leather belt embroidered with flowers and affixed with a golden cowbell. Doppelmayr traditionally presents one of the cowbell belts to a resort every time it builds a new lift.

“I was kind of overwhelmed,” Landsman said a few days later. “This has really been a solo thing mostly. So, yeah, to have a whole crowd of people there that I knew, that was pretty cool.”

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Shawn Marquardt, left, the vice president of sales for the ski lift manufacturer Doppelmayr, hands a ceremonial cow bell to Peter Landsman during a surprise celebration for Landsman, the author behind Lift Blog, after he completed a lifelong goal of visiting each of the more than 3,000 ski lifts in North America as he travelled through Salt Lake International Airport in Salt Lake City on Saturday, June 22, 2024.

Getting liftoff

Landsman unknowingly started the quest as a child, and it has taken most of his 34 years to work through the list — especially since resorts install new lifts every year.

The bright lifts at Washington’s The Summit at Snoqualmie — each one a different color — were the first to capture his attention. His curious mind wanted to know where each one started, where it went and what the ride was like. Soon, he said he was dragging his family around the Pacific Northwest in search of new lifts.

He checked off a large swath of lifts while attending college in New England. Then he moved to Wyoming, where he would eventually become Jackson Hole’s lift supervisor. He said the resort’s four-day workweeks gave him plenty of time to explore.

At each stop, he found something unique, usually with a breathtaking backdrop.

“I’ve been to a lot of just beautiful places,” he said. “And then the lifts themselves: Every one is custom built for a specific location. So, it’s got specific towers for the topography of whatever mountain it’s on. And then the different mountains have a lot of different choices about appearance and how fast they want it to go and how many people they need to move. So these really are custom-made machines. And these days, they also have a lot of technology, too.”

(John Howland | Special to the Tribune) Peter Landsman, founder of LiftBlog, caps off his goal of visiting every lift in North America with a trip to Moose Mountain in Canada's Yukon Territory on Friday, June 21, 2024. The endeavor took him to more than 3,000 lifts at 750-plus ski areas over the course of about 30 years.

Early in his career as a lift operator, Landsman began developing a database of the lifts he’d visited. He put it online and called it Lift Blog. Now, the site gets about 500,000 page views per winter month.

“I thought the people who work in the lift business would read it and maybe some skiers who are really kind of nerdy on infrastructure would read it,” he said. “But it’s turned into a much broader base of people just interested in skiing that read it.”

Jon Walters, the business development officer for lift manufacturer Leitner-Poma, said it’s the first place his engineers turn when researching new lift and upgrade requests from resorts.

“We actually go on his website to look at stats,” Walters said, “because all the research is done.”

Landsman takes pride in the utility others find in his site. For him, though, the joy is in the pursuit. Financed in part by income from the blog, his quest to document every lift on the continent has taken him to Newfoundland, New Mexico, North Dakota and hundreds of places in between. The most difficult to reach, he said, was the Mount Eyak Ski Area along the Bay of Alaska. On the way in, he flew on the “Milk Run” puddle-jumper that stopped at roughly eight outposts between Anchorage and Cordova. To get out, he had to take a ferry.

One revelation that struck Landsman during his travels was how diverse ski areas can be. Some, like the ones in Utah, cope with overcrowding, corporate ownership and eye-popping ticket prices. Just as many, however, are community hills like Moose Mountain with one 40-year-old lift and, maybe, a cocoa hut.

“There are a lot of regions in both the U.S. and Canada where skiing is still quite affordable,” he said. “And people show up in jeans and ski for $30 or $40.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Acorn lift is pictured at the private luxury ski and golf resort of Wasatch Peaks Ranch in the Morgan valley on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023.

Of course, there are also about 25 private ski areas in North America with, at minimum, multi-thousand-dollar annual membership fees. Landsman admits they’re the asterisk on his accomplishment since he hasn’t gotten permission to document the lifts at most of them.

So as he passed through Salt Lake City on his way home last week, he felt pretty certain he visited every North American lift he could … at least for a few days.

More adventures in Utah’s ‘heyday’

Less than a week after he visited Moose Mountain, Legoland New York fired up its new Mini Figure Sky Flyer gondola. And this winter, another hundred or so new ski lifts will be added to his list. Many of those are being installed in Utah, which Landsman said is entering its “heyday.”

“Utah is kind of the center of the universe right now, not just for lifts that are there already, but in terms of the future and the number of big projects in North America,” he said. “So many of them are in Utah right now.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Skiers at Deer Valley overlook some of the area that will soon be added to their skiable terrain on Thursday, April 4, 2024.

Leading the charge is Deer Valley Resort, which starting this summer plans to add 37 lifts to its new Expanded Excellence terrain in what Landsman called the “biggest lift undertaking in North American history.” Powder Mountain just got county approvals to install four lifts this summer and another next year. Park City Mountain and Snowbasin also expect to be running new lifts in 2025. That’s not to mention the private Wasatch Peaks Ranch, which is slated to add two lifts this summer, one of which will be a gondola.

But the fleeting nature of his feat doesn’t bother Landsman.

“It really is a lifelong quest to keep documenting these lifts,” he said. “... I’m excited to continue on, visiting whatever new lifts get built each year.”

It’s about the journey, after all, not the destination.

Most notable lifts in North America

Lift Blog founder Peter Landsman selects a few of the chairlifts that stand out from the more than 3,000 he visited on his way to documenting every public lift in North America.

Longest: Gondola at Silver Mountain in Kellogg, Idaho — 16,350 feet

Shortest: Short Haul double at Montage Mountain, Penn. — 280 feet

Most comfortable: Ramcharger 8, Big Sky Resort, Mont. — plush racing seats, locking bar, heated seats

Most remote: Mount Eyak Ski Area, Cordova, Alaska

Fastest: Three-way tie among aerial trams at Jackson Hole Resort, Big Sky and Alyeska Resort — 2,000 feet per minute

Slowest: Another tie — several sightseeing lifts in theme parks run at 200 feet per minute, one-fifth of a normal high-speed quad and one-tenth of the fastest trams

Most scenic: Grizzly Express Gondola at Lake Louise Ski Resort, Alberta, Canada

Most unusual: Sterling Vineyards, Calif. — runs in a one-way triangle with wine tasting at each station

Favorite: Peak 2 Peak Gondola, Whistler Blackcomb, Canada

Favorite in Utah: John Paul Express, Snowbasin Resort — 2,435 vertical feet in 7.2 minutes

— Peter Landsman

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