The Longest Ride
By John Gallup
Special to the Glacier City Gazette
This article is from Chairlift Tales, published in the Local News in Fall 1992.
During my first year on the Mt. Alyeska lift crew in 1972, I spent a lot of time at Midway on old Chair 1. At that time, the lift was configured to download people from midway, with the downhill chairs crossing the platform just the same as the uphill side. This was handy, because in the fall, we would need to download skiers from Midway because of low snow in the base area.
The other critical description needed to tell this story is the sundeck restrooms. You didn’t have to leave America to have a third world experience – you just needed to go to the bathroom at the Roundhouse. At that time the bathrooms were on the north side of the bullwheel and consisted of a pair of camper toilets powered by batteries.
When the system got used, the toilets plugged up right away, which resulted in re-tooling to the less technological solution of a 5-gallon bucket with a toilet seat on top. The result was an unspeakable mess – a very desperate situation used by desperate people. When the bucket filled, the lift was stopped, and a patroller took the bucket CAREFULLY and placed it on the chair to be sent down.
It was coming on to evening one Saturday in December 1972, and we began to get customers at midway to download. The downhill capacity of the lift was only about half the uphill capacity, so the line went very slowly and got longer and longer as it got darker.
Always willing to provide top customer service, we told our skiers that they could ski down to the end of the snow in the dusk and walk down the rest of the way, saving time, and eventually many of them did, sending sparks flying as they “happily” headed down, “commenting” on our suggestion as they went. The problem this particular afternoon was compounded by the top lift attendant, who was downloading skiers from the top as well. This situation occupied most of the usable chairs.
Right about then, the lift stopped for the honey bucket to be loaded at the Roundhouse (with a howl from our crowd for the lift stoppage). The lift started back up, and in a few minutes we peered up into the gloom and saw the bucket coming. One of the skiers in line also saw there was a place to sit next to it and not knowing what it was, dashed past those ahead of him and made it up to the ramp as the chair approached. I opened my mouth to speak, but I only got out ”Sir….” when he jumped into the chair beside the bucket and had a seat as it came through.
The bucket had only an inch or two of freeboard and sloshed all over him as he was swept away down the hill. As the crown realized what had happened, howls of laughter followed him out of sight.
Thus began the longest ride in the history of old Chair 1, carrying another satisfied customer into the Alyeska history books.