Chairlift queues

Sheep queueWhy is it that we lose our common sense when it comes to chairlift queues? A while ago, I was amazed at a single-file queue for a drag lift in La Clusaz and I got some interesting comments about queue mentality in different parts of the world. What I saw the other day was, in fact, the other extreme.

I made my way into the single queue at Le Cret du Loup chairlift in La Clusaz, allowing me to speed past the regular queue and fill an otherwise empty seat. As I passed through the electronic barrier, a French man in the slow, regular queue cooly and bluntly asked me where my instructor was. In dodgy French, I explained that the Ski School queue was actually on the other side of him, and that I was in a single queue. The man didn’t believe me until his friend pointed out the Ski School queue and said I was indeed correct. Err, thanks, tourists. Know your mountain. Queue mentality #1: everyone is righteous, whether they’re right or not.

As I approached the chairlift from the side, allowing easy access to get to an unused seat, I watched a father take his three kids onto the three-seater chairlift. That’s right, that’s four people. Now, this particular chairlift, like most, has three individual barriers that open and close in time with each new chair that rounds the corner. It is apparent that it is a three-seater chairlift well before the barriers due to lanes leading up to the barriers. And yet here was a dad trying to get all three kids on with him. Confusion ensued. A kid was pulled to the side by the man in charge of safety, but one of the other kids, concerned with the goings-on, fell over and the chairlift went over him. Queue mentality #2: it’s okay to ignore simple safety measures if it means you don’t have to wait for another chairlift.

No worries, they can get on the next chairlift together, right? WRONG. No, because meanwhile, at the barrier, a mother, child and stranger were watching all this going on, but still proceeded to go through the barriers, despite the apparent overpopulation of the previous chairlift. Once through the barriers, the mother and the stranger stopped, realising the next chair was taken. The kid was about six years old and continued on her way. The mother said half-heartedly: “Oh…wait…” while the kid kept going. Result? Another kid down, two kids crying that they’re not on the same chairlift as their dad, and a queue of people behind getting restless that the queue has slowed. Queue mentality #3: who cares about the welfare of those ahead when they’re holding the rest of us up!

I can understand why the man in charge of safety didn’t want to stop the chairlift: the first problem seemed simple, but it snowballed and turned into kid carnage. Someone slowed the chairlift for long enough to clear the mess of sprawled mini-people and the lift returned to normal. I somehow ended up on the chairlift with the little girl whose mum was now frozen still, unsure what to do without the reassurance of the barrier to tell her when to go and when to stop. How did I manage this? Well, I too believe in the three previous queue mentalities. I was righteous; I ignored simple safety measures; and, I was not happy that these kids were holding me up. Queue mentality #4: at the end of the day, we’re all sheep.


I’m a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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One comment on “Chairlift queues
  1. Matt says:

    It’s all about finding the gaps – remember lunch que tactics from your school days… cool blog by the way!

About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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