How to Make Your Own Ski Lift With a Tow Rope

by Tom Lutzenberger - Updated September 26, 2017
Ski tow rope operations are frequently used by beginner skiers.

Building a ski tow rope system involves a simple design, but it also requires some significant equipment and permits. Depending on who uses the tow rope, clearances and safety regulations may need to be met before users can begin enjoying the convenience of the apparatus. However, once the proper permits are in place, you can essentially create your own miniature ski resorts with some basic parts and machinery. Additionally, the tow rope makes sledding or skiing down a bunny hill a lot more enjoyable, especially in parts where there are no other ski resorts available.

Legal Preparation

Locate a snow-covered hill that provides a gradual grade easy enough to use as a bunny hill for beginning skiers. Check who owns the property, using property deed records at the county clerk’s office if necessary, and request permission to set up a tow rope operation. Arrange a rental agreement, if necessary, to temporarily borrow the property.

Obtain entertainment and business permits from your local city hall or county office before beginning any operation. Fill out the respective local government applications and pay any permit fees necessary. Provide clear information about where the tow rope operation will be, when it will operate and who will operate and maintain it. Do not proceed until your paperwork is complete.

See an insurance bond to cover any injuries that may occur as a result of your tow rope operation. Provide a deposit as required and keep a copy of your bond on file for reference.

Tow Rope Setup

Go to the hill and identify the specific points between which the two ropes will run. Measure the distance with a measuring tape or wheel. Write this down on a notepad with a pen. Dig a cavity in the ground at the bottom of the hill with a trench shovel, and sink a four-by-four pressure-treated beam into the hole vertically. Fill the hole with cement. Give the construction about three days (at least) to dry out. Repeat the process at your second point at the top of the hill.

Drill the top of the beam with a power drill and install a side-mounted wheel pulley into it. Use ½-inch bolts and nuts to secure the pulley frame to the beam. Tighten the hardware with crescent wrenches. Use a locking pulley that will only spin in one direction (forward). Repeat the process on the second beam at the top of the hill with another pulley assembly.

Rig the top pulley to a second wheel gear sprocket. Attach an industrial belt to this second wheel and a tractor engine transmission gearing. Run the tractor engine to power the second pulley and make it spin accordingly.

Run a 2-inch-thick rope in a loop between both pulleys. Bind the rope ends together after closing the loop and tightening the rope between both ends so that it suspends in the air. Connect the ends with a metal rope clamp, sealing the connection as it spins around the pulleys.

Turn the tractor engine on and test the pulley system. Have a couple of test subjects hold onto the rope at the bottom of the hill to get pulled up. Set the tractor in the appropriate gearing to pull the rope at a speed that won’t cause people to fall over when hanging on. Have one attendant work at the bottom of the pulley and a second at the top. Use the two ropes as planned during days when people can ski on the hill.

Tips

  • Scout out other ski resort areas that use tow ropes and examine the equipment they use for their systems. This will give you a better idea of what parts you specifically need for your setup.

About the Author

Since 2009 Tom Lutzenberger has written for various websites, covering topics ranging from finance to automotive history. Lutzenberger works in public finance and policy and consults on a variety of analytical services. His education includes a Bachelor of Arts in English and political science from Saint Mary's College and a Master of Business Administration in finance and marketing from California State University, Sacramento.

Photo Credits

  • Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images
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