The term ski lift generally refers to any cable transport device that carries skiers up a hill. Helicopters and snowcats are also used to provide vertical assistance to skiers. Ski lifts are typically a paid service at ski resorts. Types of lifts are:
- Aerial lifts transport skiers while suspended off the ground. Aerial lifts are often bicable ropeways, the "bi-" prefix meaning that the cables have two different functions (carrying and pulling).
- Surface lifts
- Cable railways, including Funiculars
Lift systems and networks
The network of lifts at a ski resort can be arranged in several patterns depending on the size and topography of the area. Several lifts may be arranged radially outward from a common base area, with top stations along surrounding peaks and ridges. Lifts may also run radially inward from several base stations to a common summit area. Ski areas located along the face of a long ridge may simply have numerous lifts running roughly parallel. High-traffic areas may have two or more lifts in parallel for increased capacity. A small percentage of ski areas have lifts which cross one another, usually with an aerial lift crossing above a surface lift and more rarely with two aerial lifts crossing at different heights above the ground.
Small ski areas with only a handful of lifts typically follow one of these simple arrangements. Larger ski areas have combinations of these basic patterns, often in a tiered arrangement by elevation. Lifts run from one or more base areas to various mid-stations, from which other lifts connect to higher terrain. Very large ski areas with dozens of lifts may have upwards of three or more tiers of lifts between the valley and the highest summits. In such cases, lengthy aerial tramways or gondolas are often used to span across several tiers at once, to allow rapid access to the upper slopes from the base.
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