There are dozens of different types of ski lift but they mostly break down in to four types:
Conveyor lifts, where you stand on with your skis or board still on your feet and get carried up the slope. A bit like a conveyor in an airport passenger terminal. This is quite likely to be the first lift you see on the beginner slope as they’re easy to use.
Drag lifts – these are where you put a shaped plastic disk or bar under your bum. That’s connected to an overhead cable by a rope and as the cable moves up the hill the rope pulls you up on your skis or snowboard – these are usually the most difficult to use when you’re learning! Some very basic drag lifts are just a moving cable at waist height you cling on to by hand and it pulls you along.
Chair lifts – again you keep your skis or snowboard on and the chair comes up behind you and you sit down on it. It carried you up the slope, hanging below a cable and you slide off at the top. Some chairlifts have 1 seat per chair but most have 2, 3 4 and these days even 6 or 8 seats so you sit together in a row.
Finally gondola, cable car and funicular railway lifts. These are all bigger lifts that you take your skis or snowboard off to get in to. You then stand or sit in a cabin whilst it goes up the mountain,. Either hanging from a cable (for gondolas or cabler cars) or on a mountain railway track for a funicular. You get off at the top and put your skis or snowboard back on and ski off, simple!
You don’t need to worry too much about ski run types as you’ll be learning on a fairly flat piece of ground, usually called a ‘nursery slope’ but once you progress you’ll get on to the easier runs.
These will have a colour coding and the colour will depend on where you are! At French, Italian and Western Swiss (French-speaking) resorts as well as in North America the easier gentle runs have a green grading. In Austria and German-speaking eastern Switzerland they’re blue.
As you get better you can progress on to intermediate slopes (often graded red) and more advanced skiers will want to try advanced and expert runs (black) or venture off the groomed slopes altogether and go ‘freeriding’ ‘off piste’.
But first things first, let’s master that nursery slope!