Lift Line Maintenance: Making 6s

On busy days at Crystal you might see ski patrollers doing “line maintenance” at the bottom of Forest Queen. Essentially we are trying to get groups of six onto each chair to help the line move faster. Forest Queen is an enormous chairlift with an uphill capacity of 3600 people per hour. That’s a lot of skiers and riders. But only if the chairs are full.

IMG_0499Our job on these busy Saturdays is to fill up every chair so that the line moves faster. Period. And it’s harder than it might seem. Well, because math.

It can also be like herding cats. First of all, there’s the counting thing. After fifteen minutes of “making 6s”, there’s bound to be a clerical error or two. Then, there’s the “side balancing” thing. If the line is quite long on the Broadway side, but short on the Queens side, part of our job is to balance it by letting more groups from the long side go than the short side. What we don’t want to see is people careening around the downhill side of the line maze, winging around small kids in lessons and snowboarders strapping in at the top of Tinkerbell in order to get to the “short side” of the line. In essence, we try to get rid of the short side by letting the long side move more quickly.

Here’s a few other considerations you can all help us with during those long queues:

  • be patient – the line maintainers are doing their best
  • make groups when you enter the maze, don’t wait until you get to the front of the line to get organized
  • when you get to the front of the line, verbally communicate to the line maintenance person how many are in your group (sometimes people hold up a number on their fingers. You’d think this would be easy, but it isn’t. Just holler out the number in your group.)
  • avoid texting or talking on your cell phone while getting onto the chairlift
  • step aside while waiting for other members of your group so you don’t clog the line
  • understand that lifties and / or patrollers have a rhyme and reason for how they alternate sides, for either efficiency or balancing crowds
  • take off backpacks and pole straps before you enter the ramp to load the chair
  • “bottom to bottom”, “back to back” for everyone
  • smile and be thankful to your line maintenance crew (*wink*)

I enjoy doing line maintenance because it gives me a chance to see guests and have a brief conversation. So if I’m in the middle of “making 6s” on a busy Saturday, give me a high-five as you slide by, but (because of math) don’t expect any higher level thinking. A smile and a wave are the very best form of appreciation.

Here’s a pro tip: whenever I see a group of 6 sliding into the turn, I almost always let them go ahead, even if I was planning on switching sides. It’s my way of saying thanks for making 6s.

7 thoughts on “Lift Line Maintenance: Making 6s

  1. Ken

    Sad state of affairs, or our of our school system, that people can’t count to 6, or 4 even. Thanks for the post to get the process out to the uninitiated. (However, maybe keep the pro-tip to ourselves). And, some lift line set-up can help. Make sure the lines are set 6 or 4 people wide so it forces the issue and you don’t get clumps of 8 or 10 at the front of the line and they alternate as the lines merge. Maybe a sign that says alternate at the merge, and more make 6’s (or 4’s) signs. Remember the days of calling out single or you didn’t get a spot?



    1. Thanks for the comments Ken. A line maze such as Forest Queen on a busy day is kind of a “black diamond” experience, so I don’t blame those in the queue for causing these problems. My suggestions are only in hope of making it go faster for everyone. I like the idea of merge signs, but one of my points is that the line organizer needs to alternate as he or she sees fit, so that might bite us at some point. Regardless, it’s a good reminder to take a deep breath and remember that the line is only five or ten minutes of our lives on an otherwise good day.


  2. Jeff Matson

    First of all thanks to all the employees who are doing line control, it always seems to help… A lot! The patroller who was utilizing deep breathing techniques last Saturday after trying to get some people to make 6s was cracking us up.

    A few questions:
    What’s the deal with all the tobacco juice being spit out in (or near) the maze?
    Has the Singles line ever been tried on the inside of the maze?
    Is it possible to extend the maze out toward the broadway side another 20 yards or so? (Invariably there seems to be about 12 people wide at the mouth and our usual group of 4 gets stuck behind people either too polite to move forward, or who are waiting for friends right in the middle of everything.)


    1. Thanks for these additions Jeff. Not sure if the singles line has been tried on the inside, but that might be one to try (although generally speaking people hate it when we change stuff). The tobacco juice is gross, I agree. I will add one more bullet point about not stopping in the line when while waiting for your group.


      1. Jeff Matson

        Last Saturday (30 Jan) I liked the new rope arrangement on the Broadway side, it was much more obvious where the line started versus where people could wait for friends to arrive.
        I don’t know if that was the biggest reason people seemed to be in a better mood (surely a large portion of this was the foot of new snow covering the r**n crust) but it sure helped a lot.
        Also the lift ops on Forest Queen have been doing a fantastic job all year. I’ve never seen a group be so attentive to the little kids AND be so friendly at the same time.


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