Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Science, Technology and Society Program


Ashton Wesner

Second Advisor

Ben Lisle

Third Advisor

Aaron Hanlon


Skiing is a sport that is entirely reliant on its setting and the elements that occur around it. This paper takes a science, technology, and society approach to one of the few human controls in the sport, chair lifts. By examining the skiing and chair lift industries, lift technology and their role on a mountain, this paper aims to build a foundational understanding of the overall value of a chair lift in the American skiing scene. With knowledge collected from critical analysis, interviews, maps, and firsthand experiences, the dialogue is rooted in a strong understanding of the role that the development of this technology has on the sport. With new technology and improvement of carriers, skiers are now able to move up mountains at unprecedented speeds while avoiding the elements. By engaging in a case study approach of Big Sky, Jackson Hole, and Snowbird, the paper takes the foundation of knowledge and applies it to ski resorts and their lift networks. The paper finds that a resort’s business model, current lift system, location, and culture on the mountain are key factors in determining the development of lifts. Using those cases, a modern case is examined; the Little Cottonwood Canyon is located due east from Salt Lake City and accesses two of the world’s premier resorts, Alta and Snowbird. With the ongoing debate about a potential gondola in the Canyon, this paper provides context to both sides of the argument within the framework of the development of chair lift technology.


skiing, infrastructure, eco-tourism, chair lift, gondola, tram