Destination Recreation: Ski Lift Safety - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Destination Recreation: Ski Lift Safety

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The lifts at Vermont ski areas spin to the tune of around 50 million passenger rides per year with very few injuries. The solid safety record is in large part because of our lift inspectors.

Alton Barber has travelled 1.2 million miles for his job of 30 years.

"You look at the complexity now compared to what it was 30 years ago. It's like the same idea as computers," he says.

Barber works for the Vermont Labor Department as a passenger tramway safety technician, one of just three in the state.

"The job is really about public safety. It's about keeping the skiing public safe," he says.

He inspects many of Vermont's ski lifts.

"I go through all of the lifts in the fall and make sure everything is safe and working. And then we kind of repeat that unannounced," he says.

If something goes wrong with the lifts in between inspections, Barber's phone usually lights up.

"They call me almost immediately because it's one of the code requirements," he says.

The code is a set of lift guidelines that must be followed.

"1962 was the first Vermont code that was written. Vermont is the second oldest program in the country. New Hampshire was the first in 1961," he says.

Today inspectors follows a national code that Vermont helped establish.

When Vermont ski areas install new lifts Barber and his crew are there from start to finish.

"Started out by basically blasting a lot of ledge out of the way," he explains.

From there excavation happens, forms are made, concrete is poured, poles, cables and mechanics are put into place. Then finally --

"In our code when we test each chairlift each passenger seat gets 187 pounds applied to it," he says.

But Barber won't be overseeing jobs like these much longer. He retires at the end of the month.

"We're gonna miss him," says John Hammond of Sugarbush Resort. He has worked with Barber for 20 years.

"He deserves it. He needs to retire to go into the six other jobs and committees that he already works on," he says.

While many will miss Barber being on the job, Barber will miss a few things too.

"The people I work with. I mean really. Seeing how things have evolved and seeing little kids grow up and be adults and bring their kids," he says.

And even though, at times, Barber's job brought him out in subzero temps, he would do it all over again.

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