Pat Delany is a lifelong skier wrapping up his 38th season on skis and can usually be found on one of Pennsylvania’s ski mountains any given Saturday or Sunday during ski season.
Pat Delany holds fond memories of, as a child, skiing with his family at a private ski area in the Poconos. However, he didn’t have this opportunity because he came from a family of rich ski snobs. Quite to the contrary, the Poconos used to house a small property owner’s association that operated a now defunct ski area with five trails, one double chair, and a vertical drop of about 450 feet. Coming from a large family, this opportunity was the only way his parents could afford to get the whole family on skis. It didn’t boast many of the amenities of the big resorts, but the little courtesies in provided more than made up for this lack.
Pat Delany remembers one of those little courtesies in particular, called “catching the chair.” When a skier goes to get on a chair lift, the chair is being pulled on a cable about four feet above his head. The cable pulls and supports the chair, which hangs below it. The chair is made of steel and probably weighs about 100 pounds in the case of a double chair and can weigh even more for a triple or quadruple chair. The cable pulls the chair at a fairly brisk speed. As you load the chair, you either come up from behind or alongside and then stand to wait for the chair to arrive. As the chair is about to slam into the top of your calf, the lift attendant grabs the chair frame and pulls it back slightly, thus allowing the skiers to comfortably sit onto the chair and be carried up the hill. This little act takes no more than five seconds.
Pat Delany has seen attendants simply stand there with their hands in their pockets instead of catching the chair. If the attendant doesn’t catch the chair, the bottom frame of the chair slams into an adult’s calf and results in a rather unpleasant feeling. As for children, the 100-pound chair smacks them in the back of the thigh, often knocking their little bodies off balance.
Pat Delany remembers, growing up, how most of the places where he skied had attendants who caught the chair as skiers were loading the lift. It was so rare to get slammed by the chair that he specifically remembers the few times it occurred.
Pat Delany, however, has seen a change in recent years. Fast-forward a couple decades. For the past five seasons, Mr. Delany has seen the exact opposite of what he remembers during his childhood. Few ski areas routinely catch the chair anymore. This season, the Delany Family skied at nine different areas. Sadly, only one area, Jack Frost, routinely caught the chair.
Pat Delany will be the first to tell you that this is a real shame. Ski area management should put more attention into this little courtesy, because no matter how good the snow or how wonderful an area’s après-ski offerings, the most lasting customer experience is the sore bruise on the back of the leg that resulted from a 100-pound chair slamming into it twenty times on Saturday.