Jackson Man Spent 25 Years Riding Every Chairlift At Every Resort In North America

By day, Peter Landsman is a lift supervisor at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. On the side, the “Guru Of Gondolas” spent 25 years riding every chairlift at every resort in North America — more than 6,000.

Jake Nichols

June 07, 20249 min read

Peter Landsman visiting one of the world's oldest operating chairlifts in Cordova, Alaska.
Peter Landsman visiting one of the world's oldest operating chairlifts in Cordova, Alaska. (Courtesy Peter Landsman)

Countless ski bums have undoubtedly racked up an impressive list of their favorite resorts and runs. But how many have actually counted them?

It’s one thing to journal and maybe catalogue visits to ski areas — say, every ski area in North America — but it’s quite an offbeat thing to buy a plane ticket, pack skid and venture out with a focused desire to check out the chairlifts at all those spots.

Peter Landsman didn’t start out intending on creating the most extensive and definitive database on ski area chairlifts in the world, but 25 years later, here he is having visited and ridden every lift (6,170 by his count) at 750 ski areas in the United States and Canada.

Landsman is cuckoo for chairlifts. For the 34-year-old, schussing down the slopes has never been as interesting as riding to the top of them.

“I’m very focused on the lifts and have always been that way. The ski area I grew up at is called Snoqualmie Pass in Washington. Every lift there was a different color at that time,” Landsman said. “My earliest memories of skiing when I was 4 years old was I was always curious about the lifts. I was just fascinated by them. I knew the names of all of them, and that’s been a lifelong thing now since then.”

One by one, Landsman eventually rode every lift in the state of Washington and later expanded into the Pacific Northwest. Four years at Colby College in Maine had Landsman skiing every resort in the New England area.

After moving to Jackson, Wyoming, and landing a job with Jackson Hole Mountain Resort as a lift operator in 2012, Landsman soon found he had explored most of the northern Rockies.

By 2015, Landsman made traveling to and cataloguing every lift in the United States his goal. He began a website blog that includes an extensive database of every ski area and every one of its conveyances to a summit.

That database is now the definitive collection of lift records anywhere. In 2022, after documenting every lift at the 500 or so ski areas in the U.S., Landsman hit up Canada’s 250 to complete a North American excursion that is most impressive.

What’s A Lift?

OK, what constitutes a lift in Landsman’s eyes?

“I define it as commercially produced lift with a haul rope. That includes everything from aerial tramways and gondolas, to chairs, to simple lifts like T-bars and poma lifts,” Landsman explained.

Not included are homemade rope tows and conveyor belts sometimes billed as “magic carpets.”

“There are no two chairlifts that are exactly alike. There are many different manufactures and many different models. Each lift is custom designed for the topography of the particular slope they are on,” Landsman said.

“There also used to be a lot more manufacturers than there are now,” he added. “Now there are primarily just two. Back in the ’60s and ’70s there were dozens and dozens of manufacturers building lifts all over the place. The number of lifts built per year used to be a couple hundred back in the ’70s. Now it’s more like 50 a year.”

Just finding every lift in North America was a chore. Before Landsman’s spreadsheet, no comprehensive databank existed. Landsman found each lift through a lot of Google searches and satellite map scouring.

“It was a lot of research. There are some that are really not well known at all,” Landsman said. “It’s funny, I was just looking at Wyoming, and the National Ski Area Association has 10 ski areas in the state, but my database has 11.”

As Landsman’s LiftBlog website became more popular, he would get tips coming in on some of the more obscure ski areas and other places where a lift could be found.

“I just found out there are two in Canada that I didn’t know existed that I still have to go to,’ Landsman said, adding that he’ll likely get to them this month.

Many of the chairlifts Landsman has ridden are not at a ski area at all. To test the lift sage, we asked him, “Without looking, is there a lift in Mississippi?”

“I believe there is one at the state fair,” Landsman replied correctly of the state’s sole lift.

The LiftBlog database records the 88-chair lift called Skyride has been operating since 1994. It was manufactured by Hopkins. Landsman’s records even include the lift’s speed.

“A lot of those Southern states have state fairs with chairlifts. They are great moneymakers,” Landsman shared. “People who live in Mississippi, who don’t normally get to go on ski lifts, can get a great view from a chairlift.”

  • Peter Landsman in Aspen, Colorado.
    Peter Landsman in Aspen, Colorado. (Courtesy Peter Landsman)
  • The Skyride at the Mississippi State Fair.
    The Skyride at the Mississippi State Fair. (Courtesy Peter Landsman)
  • The signature Big Red lift at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
    The signature Big Red lift at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. (Jackson Hole Mountain Resort)
  • Peter Landsman's favorite lift is Whistler Blackcomb's Peak 2 Peak.
    Peter Landsman's favorite lift is Whistler Blackcomb's Peak 2 Peak. (Courtesy Peter Landsman)
  • Peter Landsman does ski, but it is lifts that capture his imagination.
    Peter Landsman does ski, but it is lifts that capture his imagination. (Courtesy Peter Landsman)

Deep Dive Research

Landsman takes great care in researching every lift he visits. He takes hundreds of photos and posts the best two dozen or so. He tracks down the history of each lift, contacting manufacturers and sometimes uncovering information resort owners themselves were not aware of.

His posted spreadsheet is so detailed and extensive, it has become the go-to favorite site of many in the ski industry.

“I just came back from National Ski Areas Association Convention in Texas last week and was blown away by how many executives at these resorts even knew about my website and also used it frequently for reference,” Landsman said. “Some lift manufacturers said they use it a lot to look at pictures when they are bidding a new lift to see what they are getting into with the terrain and projected costs of building.”

As a result, Landsman has been able to monetize the website to a degree. Revenue generated from advertising helps defer his travel costs (he’s logged nearly 1 million miles with Delta) and partially covers his time spent on updating the database.

“The most limiting factor right now is the amount of time I have. Working full-time at JHMR as a lift supervisor and running this website doesn’t leave a lot of time to add new features,” Landsman said. “Maybe now that I have visited all the ski areas I can focus on adding more useful features for the industry.”

Landsman has no plans to expand beyond coverage of the U.S. and Canada.

“I think North America is kind of a natural place to stop. Mexico does not have any ski areas. It would take many lifetimes to catalogue all the ski areas in Europe,” Landsman said.

Industry In Flux

Keeping current with new resorts and new lifts, as well as tracking decommissioned lifts and ski areas that have folded, is a massive undertaking in itself.

“The whole industry is evolving. Larger resorts, in particular, are replacing a lot of infrastructure. It’s quite common for a ski resort to build a new lift every year for a number of years, and replace a big portion of their fleet,” Landsman said.

During his 25 years of visiting ski areas, many of the lifts Landsman rode are now gone and new ones have been built that will need a revisit. Of the 6,170 lifts Landsman has ridden on, he estimates about 2,980 are still currently spinning.

“Occasionally, a new resort opens. Last winter, down in Colorado, Hoedown Hill opened, which is a little resort north of Denver,” Landsman said.

“On the flip side, quite a number have closed, particularly smaller ski areas maybe in remote areas with dwindling population. A chunk in my database I visited are actually closed now. Sometimes they close for a couple seasons — maybe due to lack of snow or a change in ownership—then they might reopen. The ski industry is constantly changing; 750 is a bit of a moving target,” he said.

Landsman also keeps up with lifts that find a new home. A resort in Cordova, Alaska, for example, operates a single chair it got from Sun Valley, Idaho. Some lifts have moved three and four times.

“Deer Valley’s old Homestake Express went to my home mountain in Washington at Crystal Mountain where it's operating again. So, for lifts that are not too old, there's a good chance that they will end up at another ski area somewhere,” Landsman said.

Shorter ski seasons and changing demographics are just some of the challenges facing the ski resort industry. Landsman has a unique birds-eye view of landscape.

Landsman noted, “The most successful resorts are ones that embrace not just winter and summer, but spring and fall and have events all year. Those more year-round-minded do a lot better than the resorts that turn the lifts off in April and back on in December.”

  • The chairlift at Big Sky resort in Montana.
    The chairlift at Big Sky resort in Montana. (Courtesy Peter Landsman)
  • A frozen chairlift at the Deer Valley Resort.
    A frozen chairlift at the Deer Valley Resort. (Courtesy Peter Landsman)
  • Peter Landsman has spent 25 years visiting all the chairlifts in North America — more than 6,000 of them.
    Peter Landsman has spent 25 years visiting all the chairlifts in North America — more than 6,000 of them. (Courtesy Peter Landsman)
  • Peter Landsman on a busmans holiday at his home resort.
    Peter Landsman on a busmans holiday at his home resort. (Courtesy Peter Landsman)

Gamut Of Gondolas

Landsman has seen it all. From the most rinky-dink basic lifts to high-tech beasts soaring high above the slopes.

“There are still a couple of single chairs operating in the U.S. Very simple lifts, probably built for very little money, some dating back to as far as the 1930s,” Landsman said. “Some of the most modern gondolas and trams being built these days cost many tens of millions of dollars. They include things like heated seats, protective bubbles and lots of new safety features. Some are even connected to internet so manufacturers can diagnose problems remotely.”

Lowest, highest lifts?

“There’s one at Mount Snow in Vermont that is a beginner lift that is very, very low to the ground. You can't ski under it or you would run into the skiers coming up the lift,” Landsman offered. “Close to home, Sublette at Jackson Hole is probably one of the highest off the ground. When you are over Laramie Bowl and Laramie Cliffs, you would not want to fall off.”

Landsman says his favorite lift can be found at North America’s largest ski resort.

“It’s called the Peak 2 Peak Gondola at Whistler Blackcomb in Canada. It’s a 30-passenger gondola. A hybrid, actually, between tram and gondola. So, you have the best of both worlds in terms of technology and speed and comfort. It’s a very cool machine,” Landsman said.

As much as Landsman knows about lifts, he knows more about the industry. His passion will never overtake his prudence.

“I'm not sure I have any lift ownership in my future. The ski business is tough. It’s very, very capital intensive. The technology is constantly changing,” Landsman pointed out. “Working on a lift might actually be better than owning a lift.”

Jake Nichols can be reached at jake@cowboystatedaily.com.

Share this article



Jake Nichols

Features Reporter