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The History of Ski Lifts

Before ski lifts, skiers had to rely on makeshift tows. They sometimes even used repurposed mining equipment! Early mechanical lifts debuted in the 1900s and were powered by horses and waterwheels – one model was even powered by a Dodge car set on blocks! In 1936, the first chairlift was installed in Idaho at Sun Valley, America’s first ski resort. The chair lift was designed by James Curran, a self-taught engineer who had previously created a wire-based system for moving bales of bananas and then adapted the concept for his chair lift. Rope tows, J-bars, and T-bars continued to be seen at ski resorts through the mid-1900s due to their lower cost, but by the 1960s and 1970s, chair lifts had become the norm.

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