I'm planning to go downhill skiing next week and I notice the forecast for the day in question is for winds of 50 to 60 km/h. That seemed high to me. A few years ago, at the same hill, we were turned away when they closed all chair lifts because of strong winds, but how strong I don't know.

Are there any standard guidelines that ski hills follow regarding maximum allowable wind strengths, before they close the lifts? I've seen a couple of anecdotal claims that chair lifts remained open (on other hills) even in 40 mph (64 km/h) winds. Seems awfully high.

  • I would recommend you call them directly to see if they already have a plan
    – njzk2
    Mar 4, 2017 at 17:48
  • 1
    Likely to depend on the particular area & lift. I see the local area is running today with winds 35-45 mph (55-70 kph), though they advise that wind holds are possible. It's not unusual for summit wind gusts there to exceed 120 mph (200 kph) during storms.
    – jamesqf
    Mar 4, 2017 at 19:22

1 Answer 1


It looks like the answer is that it depends on the direction, wind speed, terrain and type of chairlift. The ski area you are going to might keep statistics on how often the wind makes the use of chairlifts unsafe or whether or not they think the lifts will be open for those dates.

"It's really a matter of wind speed as well as wind direction and that really is relevant to each chair lift because they all have different aspects and so, typically, around 40 miles per hour is the tipping point," says Wales.

He explains if the wind is blowing straight up or down the line there's flexibility but when they see crosswinds like they did, Saturday, there's little room for leeway.


Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin were largely unaffected by the extreme breezes Wednesday, with Keystone’s gondola being the only lift closed from normal operation at either resort by midday. It closed at roughly 10:30 a.m.

At Breckenridge, it’s often the Imperial Express Chair and the T-bar most affected by high winds, spokeswoman Kristen Petitt-Stewart said. These lifts have yet to open for the season.

The gondola is more sensitive to wind than the lifts,” Parquette said, adding that since lifts can run when the gondola can’t, the resort is still able to accommodate guests despite high winds.


This accident happened when the winds were between 30 to 50 mph

Sugarloaf provided a sequence of Tuesday's incident, saying mechanics were unable to fix a problem with the Spillway East lift and were trying to off-load guests when the lift's cable skipped over the edge of a pulley, causing five chairs to fall between 25 and 30 feet to the ground, officials said.

Before the accident, high winds had delayed the the opening of several lifts. Conditions at the time of the accident were windy, but not unusually so following a major snowstorm, resort spokesman Ethan Austin said. Winds were gusting between 30 mph and 50 mph in the area at the time, according to CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras.

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