Semple

The only sane, logical way to follow up all the talk about Lift One is to write about Lift 2. Long gone but not forgotten, Lift 2 was the Rodney Dangerfield of chairlifts: It never got any respect. It still doesn’t.

Incidentally, one year during Comedy Fest I got in an elevator at the St. Regis, and standing there in slippers and a white hotel bathrobe was none other than Rodney Dangerfield himself — the “No respect” Lift 2 equivalent of comedians. He looked awful with ashen skin and huge bags under his eyes. He shot me a sympathetic look like, “Please, I’m begging you, be the one guy who doesn’t say something stupid about ‘Caddyshack’ ...” I somehow miraculously heeded the innuendo and refrained. He died soon after.

Last Saturday, as always, I was diligently reading the master, Tony Vagneur, and something in there piqued my interest: He referred to the old Lift 2 as the “Tuna trolley.” A couple of emails later I had the fishy facts, the scaly scoop — they called it the Tuna trolley because that’s how they got all the food up to the Sundeck. Apparently tuna sandwiches were popular back then. Who knew?

All the talk of the original Lift One and how incredible it was makes you wonder. It was heralded as the longest chairlift in the world at the time. Right here in Aspen. We’ve seen pictures, heard stories, and maybe even talked to the living legends who rode and skied it. All the wistful ballyhoo about the old Lift One made you think it went to the moon and back.

For the longest time, I thought that the old Lift One went from the bottom of Aspen Mountain all the way to the Sundeck — you know, being the longest lift in the world and all. It made perfect sense. It then occurred to me one day that the alignment would’ve put the end of the lift down in a gulley 100 yards to the west of the top. It was only then I realized that Lift One stopped short.

The “combination” of Lifts 1 and 2 were deemed the “longest lift in the world.” Technically that’s two lifts. Maybe I should start calling myself the world’s tallest man by riding around on my buddies’ shoulders.

If you stand at the top of Lift 6 and train your eye toward the top of Ajax you can still see the faint lift line of old Lift 2. They yanked the thing out of the ground like a wisdom tooth one summer in the ’80s, and no one ever really noticed. It went from the top of 6 and terminated at the Sundeck — akin to where Lift 3 does now.

Lift 2

A woman rides Lift 2 up Aspen Mountain in the summer of 1950.

So why don’t you ever hear anything about Lift 2? Look into it for yourself. My loose understanding is that the original Lift 2 was also a single lift that went from basically the top of where Lift 6 is to the Sundeck.

You gotta be really careful when talking about Aspen’s history, and the names of things around here, lest you piss off an old-timer and end up the target of a scornful reprimanding letter to the editor. Don’t believe me? Ask me innocently about “Highland” Bowl and prepare yourself for a demeaning rant! It’s “Highlands” Bowl, with an “S,” you SkiCo suck-up, grammar-police wannabees!

As teens on weekends we would eagerly ride Lift 2 on our way to the Sundeck, just to catch a glimpse of the dreamy Brigitte Birfelder, our classmate who worked on the food line at the Sundeck. Her parents ran the joint. When our turn finally came she’d ask us what we wanted as we awkwardly stared at her, holding up the line with our mouths agape. “Uh, I’ll have a tuna melt, please?” Interestingly enough, Lift 2 used to pass right over Bonnies, where she’s now the proprietor. Snowballs flew often in both directions.

Lift 2 was gnarly. I’m curious how many people fell off the thing right as they got on — the lift loaded downhill to start. Right when you got on, the chair would sway dangerously forward like a park swing, and you would lose altitude as your stomach rose up toward your throat. So many skiers got bucked off they had a giant World Cup crash bag underneath it to cushion the fall.

I’ve always wanted to jump off a chairlift. One day I will. I know people who have intentionally flung themselves off of the old Lift 2, and they are my idols. Next time you get on a slow lift and think, “Man, this is dangerous!” just be psyched you never rode Lift 2. Me personally, I like old, slow two-seater lifts — they offer a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle of everyday life — the phone, TV and the news of the world, where we can sit back, relax and smell the snowflakes.

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