Who: Peter Landsman, Founder and Editor of Lift Blog
Why I interviewed him: One of the most disappointing aspects of the rad ski mags’ drift toward backcountry stoke over the past couple decades has been the corresponding decrease in focus on resort skiing and all that comes with it. I’m a resort skier and always have been, and the stories animating each mountain’s lift fleet have always been a draw for me. But as the media’s institutional reverence for icons like the Jackson Hole tram or the KT-22 Express have faded, I’ve had to seek out other sources to sustain my interest in lift mythology. What I found in Lift Blog is not just a caretaker deeply invested in this history, but thorough and up-to-date lists on new and proposed lift projects (2020, 2019), helpful and faultlessly consistent Friday news updates, and a general obsession with all things skiing that matches my own. I signed up for Peter’s email list last year, and I’ve found his updates and site to be an essential resource ever since.
What we talked about: What it’s like to supervise the tram at Jackson Hole because yeah he actually does that and what a freaking job for a dude who’s obsessed with ski lifts; pow days at Jackson Hole; the story of Lift Blog’s founding; this season’s most significant lift projects in the East (Bretton Woods, Killington, Windham); why T-bars are cooler than you think and why they’re probably never going away; moving chairlifts from one place to another because every time I see someone doing that I’m like damn that looks hard and complicated; the historical significance of the high-speed lift that Owl’s Head is taking down; why some mountains are starting to replace detachable lifts with fixed-grips, and why we’re likely to see more of that; TRIGGER WARNING for Northeast people who stick their fingers in their ears and go “lalalalala” every time someone acknowledges other ski regions: the most significant lift projects out West this season (Copper, Winter Park, Steamboat, Vail, Jackson Hole); predictions for Vail’s approach to infrastructure throughout its new eastern empire; why their treatment of day-driver Steven’s Pass bodes well for its Peak mountains; the best move Vail could make at Attitash; the most tantalizing ski area master plans in the country; the potential of The Balsams; the challenges awaiting the crews that will have to get Saddleback running again after it’s sat dormant for four and soon to be five winters; why Oktuple Ramcharger chairlifts are probably not landing at your local bump; the urban gondola networks growing out of the craggy urban landscapes of South America; the challenges of convincing people that cable lifts are a legitimate means of mass transit; why the Disney Skyliner may finally change that; other non-ski-slope places where cable lifts would make a hell of a lot of sense; on the ground at Jackson Hole for last year’s Ikon Baklash; Peter’s top five lifts that every skier needs to hit in their lifetime.
Things that may be slightly outdated because we recorded this a while ago: We recorded most of this in August, so the Bretton Woods gondola had not yet started spinning and there are some light references to that. For that same reason, we don’t discuss Alterra in our brief conversation about Sugarbush, as this was pre-acquisition (my thoughts on that acquisition here).
Disclosure that oops I got outsmarted by technology: Then again, the Saddleback part of this interview is very up to date, because we recorded it this past Tuesday. What basically happened was a technological failure that rendered parts of our initial interview unusable, compelling me to request a second interview in order to re-record those segments. Peter graciously obliged, and we decided to throw in a Saddleback discussion since Arctaris had just announced their intention to buy (my thoughts on that here). So this is actually two interviews stitched together. In general, I want to edit these interviews very lightly, cutting the “umms” and awkward pauses, but keeping the general substance true to its original timeline. In this case, I Frankensteined the two interviews together to maintain narrative consistency. This is also why this was supposed to come out Wednesday and then promised on Thursday and is now reaching you on Friday. As I get better at this, my hope is that instances of me being technologied decline.
Why I thought that now was a good time for this interview: As ski season fires up, this is as good of a time as any to get acquainted with the big on-mountain changes for 2019-20. I’m also just recently realizing how phenomenally expensive all of this lift infrastructure that I’d always taken for granted is, and I wanted a deeper understanding of how mountains make the decisions they do around when to replace lifts and where to put them. I’m also always impressed by people who are consistent and meticulous and thorough in their work, and I admired the regularity and speed with which Peter’s updates arrived in my inbox, and I wanted to get a better understanding for how he does it as I build out my own small platform. Outside of skiing, I find mass transit interesting, and I’m captivated by this increase in lifts as an alternative transportation mode in a world of bursting full, traffic-clogged cities in search of relatively inexpensive infrastructure that can move people quickly and reduce congestion.
Why you should go there: We live in an era of massively dispersed information, with uncountable numbers of social feeds spitting out current but chaotic bits of information that can be hard to put together into a coherent whole. Lift Blog acts as a powerful aggregator pulling together every lift-related tidbit from every mountain across North America. Peter is one of the few guys stationed in the West who doesn’t pretend to be too good for skiing outside of the region, and his coverage reflects that. If a new quad is going in at Christmas Mountain Village, Wisconsin, you’re going to hear about it on Lift Blog. This is a one-man show who’s stepping in to fill a huge gap that no one else in the skiing-industrial complex has bothered with, and it’s never a bad idea to support a project like that.
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Check out previous podcasts: Killington GM Mike Solimano | Plattekill owners Danielle and Laszlo Vajtay| New England Lost Ski Areas Project Founder Jeremy Davis | Magic Mountain President Geoff Hatheway