Lessons from the Lift Line

Story and Photos by Andrea Eldridge

I was lured by the shack. It was kind of like Butch Cassidy and Sundance’s Hole-in-the-Wall the first time I strolled by with the dogs. The poma shack is a little warming hut that houses the electrical control boxes that operate a tow lift that scoots skiers up a hill.

Rock Creek Poma is a hideout on the edge of the Tamarack Ski Resort trail map. It links the homeowners on the south side of Tamarack Resort with the chairlifts to the summit on the north.

The shack, which has windows on three sides, is decked out with a new heater, microwave, and teapot. The view goes straight up the mountain to where it meets the sky. As a former airline pilot, I like to see the sky. I thought, could this location be more alluring? Speakers were rigged so you could jam to your own music inside and out.

There was a desk, comfy chairs, and just enough room for my two big black Briard dogs to sprawl. The hut is minded by a lone “liftie” or ski lift operator, who assists with the smoother-than-an-airline boarding process. Surrounded by peaceful Mother Nature, this looked to me like the perfect clubhouse for a party of one.

Two types of people choose to engage with the four seasons on a mountainside: those lucky enough to be born in the area and those who, like treasure hunters homing in on a sunken Spanish galleon wrecked off the Florida Keys, search for it. I am in the latter group.

I came to live at Tamarack after retiring and found myself engaging with my new community as a liftie. I figured if homeowners would never guess the liftie is a homeowner, neither would the other lifties. My gig should allow me to witness seasonal resort employment firsthand, boost the number of days I skied, and indulge in the solitude that facilitates writing.

In November 2022, when the resort started making snow and grooming the slopes in anticipation of opening day, I casually mentioned to someone in management, “I’d like to work the poma on Saturdays.” Not long after, I got a letter inviting me to orientation—they’re always light on lifties.

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Andrea Eldridge

About Andrea Eldridge

Andrea Eldridge is a retired airline pilot who lives in Donnelly with her husband Kevin, also a retired airline pilot. Her writing has appeared in Smithsonian/Air&Space Magazine and she has a piece about learning to fly the Idaho backcountry forthcoming in the fall issue of Big Sky Journal.

2 Responses to Lessons from the Lift Line

  1. Kelly - Reply


    It’s so disappointing to read a piece like this. No where in the essay does the author captivate the true beauty and camaraderie shared by coworkers as they work their butts off to keep the mountain running.

    I’m shocked the author thought it was appropriate to speak about supervisors and co-workers in such an insensitive manner. Anyone who has spent a considerable time in the area knows how hard housing is to come by. And much respect is given to those who find a way to make it happen and still show up for work. To mention that they expected their coworkers to be addicted to meth is deeply insulting to the community as a whole.

    The author had such a great opportunity to paint the picture as it really is, a beautiful local mountain surrounded by great people of all backgrounds who find common ground with their love of outdoors.

    I can’t express how hurtful this piece is to the hard working people who give their all to make sure visitors have the best experience possible. Very surprising to read this point of view. Can’t help but wonder what skewed the authors experience that allowed them to create such a hurtful essay.

    • The Editors - Reply


      The author’s statement decried by the above reader is shown here in its entirety:

      “Influenced by mountain town stereotypes, I expected my new peer group to consist of meth heads and transients. I didn’t remember any such thing from when I skied as a kid in the 1970s and 1980s, and it wasn’t true today.”

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