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Wasatch Backside Lifty Invitational: A History of the Games

Guest post by Jeff Marzka, Lift Operations Manager

I was asked to give a brief explanation of what the heck the Wasatch Backside Lifty Invitational is.  To get into the finer details of what the W.B.L.I. would be larger than a War and Peace novel.  Getting to the heart of the absolute true reason that we get three such competitive resorts together is for the lift operators.  Lift Operators are key employees at any resort.  They have more interaction with guests, both positively or unfortunately negatively, than any other group on the mountain.  If you look between the three resorts on the Wasatch backside, the lifties see about two million skiers and riders per season.  Statistically speaking; if each one of those guests rides a chairlift 10 to 15 times during their visit, the lift operators come in contact with guests anywhere from 20 to 30 million times a season. 

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Each of the lift managers at Park City's 3 resorts feel that we need to demonstrate to these guys and gals that they are appreciated.  W.B.L.I. is a great way to offer them an opportunity to gain positive attention from our community and fellow employees.  It’s a great way to show team spirit and to get everyone together to showcase their own resort.  The only difference between the lifties at all three resorts is that they wear different colored jackets. 

In 1936 the first chairlift was built by Union Pacific Railroad. Since then, with this small engineering masterpiece, was which the beginning of a harden group of men and women known today as lifties.  Lifties; short for Lift Operators or Aerial Transportation Technicians have stood the test of time.  Armed with their brazen skills and their genuine personalities have given a colorful personality to resorts all over the world. 

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Each resort prides itself on having the best lifties on the planet.  You can never go to a ski area without a lift operator puffing out their chest when asked “are you guys the best lifties?”  This is the part of the story where the Wasatch Backside Lifty Invitational (W.B.L.I. for short) comes in.

On a Sunny fall afternoon I made a passing comment to my counterpart at Canyons about how Park City Mountain Resort Lift Operations dominates the valley. I was unaware that my comments would have started an annual fierce battle known today as the W.B.L.I. games.  This caused Deirdre Riley (Canyons) to ask for a challenge to settle this Park City ongoing debate.  Of course not wanting to be outdone, Deer Valley was thrust into the mountain clash.  The buzz was in the air but with three resorts and only one trophy, how would this be decided?  

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It didn’t take long for the pieces of the competition puzzle to come together.  With the largest throwing arena in the valley at Silver Lake Lodge, the throwing events would be hosted by Deer Valley.  The idea was simple.  Take everything that lifties use on a daily basis and throw the heck out of them.  Having to deal with the absolute frustration of keeping the correct time on clocks, working with bent stop gates, the dreaded mangled scoops and a locker room full of smelly ski boots where all the items that would define the throwing events.  Each one of these items are not only thrown, but measured and accumulated for a final score. 

The idea of strength and dexterity would be the collection of skills for the events in the Canyons playing arena.  The talent of setting up a perfect maze in the least amount of time, a trash can fill and the lost and found mound (inspired by guests who are asking for items that they have dropped in the snow at any given time of the season).   Then last, but not least the brute strength of the lifties would be tested in the tug-o-war competition. 

Park City Mountain Resort would host the relay events. First of these is the ski boot relay.  Sounds easy? Well switching on and off a pair of size 16 ski boots and running a foot race is not.  Without a break we then we quickly move into the ski pole spin where spinning ten revolutions of a ski pole, jumping over it and then navigating a slalom course.  If you didn’t think that was enough, the next events have the lift operators race the clock in the gear return relay.  This has lifties returning dropped gear to someone suspended on the chairlift.  Lifties doing this on a daily basis does result in some great times documented on the score sheet.  Then we round out the evening with the snow scoop relay.  Pushing a scoop is not only difficult in itself but then have a co-worker go for a ride inside the scoop through a horrific obstacle course.  Cheers from the crowd echo through Treasure Hollow as everyone goes wild as each resort crosses the finish line.

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Park City Mountain Resort is the reigning W.B.L.I. champion.

Many might ask after all this intense competition, what do you do in case of a tie?  Paul, Deirdre and Jeff have made a contingency plan just in the rare case this might happen.  During the week of competition each resort will choose their most fearless lifty to challenge the terror of the Alpine Coaster at Park City Mountain Resort.  Each resort will have two duel teams to navigate the twisting and winding track.  Observing how each team creates the most aerodynamic sled in itself is a treat to watch.   Each resort will be timed and that who has the best combined time of their two runs will decide any tie breakers.

Support has not only been given from each resort, but also growing support from some of our vendors.  Doppelmayr has contributed the past two years along with Inter-Mountain Sign Company.  This year Poma Leitner has joined in the fun.   Our goal is to eventually build a fund to be able to create a scholarship with a local college.  Hopefully in the future this will allow us to offer employee(s) an opportunity to get a degree in the resort/hospitality management program.    

Again, it’s our employees who create the memories and enrich the experiences for our guest.  W.B.L.I is just a way for us to offer the same back to our lift operators.  We invite everyone out to cheer on their favorite lifties.

March 28th – Park City Mountain Resort – Starting at 5:00pm

  • Snow Scoop Relay
  • Ski Pole Spin
  • Boot Relay
  • Gear Return Relay

March 30th – Deer Valley Resort – Starting at 5:00 pm

  • Clock Toss
  • Stop Gate Javelin
  • Snow Scoop Toss
  • Boot Throw

April 1st – The Canyon Resort – Starting at 5:00 pm

  • Trash Can Fill
  • Lost and Found Mound
  • Maze Set-Up
  • Tug of War

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