As we take for granted how easy it is to get to the top of a ski hill, effortlessly transported, it's fascinating to trace back to where and how the concept of elevating skiers/snowboarders originated. This journey not only highlights a pivotal moment in winter sports history, but also the innovative spirit that companies like ALL SZN embody in their quest to enhance the skiing/snowboarding experience with their groundbreaking ideas.

Prior to the ski lift, skiers faced the daunting task of hiking up slopes before enjoying the thrill of skiing down. This not only limited the number of runs a skier could enjoy in a day, but also made skiing less accessible to many.

The first ski lift, a simple, but revolutionary idea, was born in the early 20th century. It was in 1936 in Sun Valley, Idaho, where the world's first chairlift was introduced. Inspired by the banana conveyor systems used in tropical climates, an engineer named James Curran adapted this concept for the snowy slopes of Sun Valley. The Union Pacific Railroad, seeking to expand Sun Valley into a premier ski resort, funded this innovative project.

James Curran

Photo of: James Curran

Curran's design was simple yet effective: a series of chairs attached to a continuously moving cable loop, powered by a motor, that could transport skiers up the hill with ease. This invention not only transformed Sun Valley into a skiing paradise but also marked the beginning of a new era in winter sports. Ski resorts could now attract more visitors, making skiing a more popular and accessible sport.

Charley Proctor saw something special in Curran's innovative design, prompting him to inform Harriman that UPRR engineers had stumbled upon a remarkable invention known as the "mono-cable." With a more critical eye, Harriman's ski-savvy friends, including John E. P. Morgan, took a closer look at the concept, leading Harriman to green-light its development. 

Aerial Ski Tramway

Gordan Bannerman, James Curran and Glen Trout's "Aerial Ski Tramway," patented March 28, 1939. Source: Smithsonian Magazine.

Early Chair Lift

An early lift chair. Source: Union Pacific

Jim Curran, leveraging his natural knack for utilizing science and math to creatively tackle problems without formal higher education, transformed skiing. By adapting industrial technologies for leisure, he pioneered the world's first chairlift, benefiting countless skiers globally. This groundbreaking invention was crafted by a young, non-skiing engineer from Nebraska, educated through night school, yet his name remains largely unrecognized.

In recognition of his monumental contribution, James Michael Curran was inducted into the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 2001.

The evolution of ski lifts from these humble beginnings to the high-speed, multi-seat gondolas and detachable chairlifts we see today mirrors the technological advancements and creative solutions found in the ski industry. Much like how the first ski lift solved a significant challenge for skiers, ALL SZN is addressing the modern skier's needs to stand out on the slope with stylish goggles. Offering features like unique designs on the lenses, magnetic lens attachments for quick swaps, and anti-fog technology, ALL SZN is on a mission to provide skiers with the best possible experience on the slopes.

Here are some of the different type of chair lifts you see today:

2 Person Chair Lift

3 Person Chair Lift

4 Person Chair Lift

6 Person Chair Lift

Gondola Lift


The story of the first ski lift is a testament to human ingenuity and the relentless pursuit of improving the skiing experience. It reminds us that behind every leisure activity we enjoy, there's a history of innovation and problem-solving. As ALL SZN continues to push the boundaries with their ski goggles, they honor the legacy of those early pioneers who made skiing what it is today—a thrilling, accessible, and endlessly enjoyable winter sport.

The Dollar Lift

The Dollar lift was 2,360 feet long and rose 634 feet in elevation. Source: Sun Valley Resort.

In reflecting on the history of the first ski lift, we're reminded of the importance of embracing innovation and striving for excellence. As we look forward to the future of skiing and snowboarding, it's companies like ALL SZN, with their focus on innovation, quality, and style, that will continue to elevate our experiences, much like the first ski lift did for the generations before us.

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