Across each snowbound mountain destination on the Ikon Pass, there’s always more than meets the eye going on behind the scenes. Mountain wide – from before the sun rises until well after it sets – these activities and actions are rarely seen by guests. Yet, they are experienced day-in-and day out, constantly making the on-mountain experience something special and unique.
Beyond the snow, it takes motivated, passionate people to move mountains. These are the Ikon Pass employees who have demonstrated what it takes to keep things running, stepping up in hard times, and forever showing love for their mountain communities.
Angie H. – Lift Technician Apprentice II
As guests ski or ride down the mountain and loop back up on the chairlift, most of them don’t think twice about what keeps the machines churning. But Angie Hong thinks about it all the time. As a lift technician apprentice at Palisades Tahoe, Angie focuses on the lift mechanics, working behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly.
Over her six seasons at Palisades, Angie has become a critical part of the team, working as a crew leader on the new Base to Base Gondola. While lift maintenance was not always Angie’s passion, a series of events led her to this career path, and she’s grateful every day for the opportunity to not only work in this industry but be a change agent for other women looking to break into mountain operations.
Prior to working at Palisades, Angie spent her summers (April to November roughly) doing build and teardown at music festivals. When the season came to an end, and it was time to go back to her home in Long Beach for winter, she decided instead to apply for a job as a liftie in Tahoe. Even though she wasn’t sure what she was getting into, that first season on the mountain was so enjoyable, she returned every winter.
When COVID hit, the music festival industry shut down, and all the work Angie had lined up for that year was gone. She decided to stay in Tahoe, signed a long-term lease on a house in Truckee, and switched to a year-round job at Palisades working in lift operations. Mid-season she made the switch to maintenance. She grew up tinkering with cars, and was always interested in how mechanical things functioned, so lift maintenance seemed like the perfect fit for her background.
”I love working with my hands and being physical with my work. The unpredictability of Mother Nature and its powerful elements getting thrown into mountain operations makes for a lot of really exciting moments.
A Day in the Life
It’s hard to say what the day-to-day tasks of a lift maintenance apprentice are, because no two days are the same. On a typical winter day, when it isn’t actively snowing, Angie and her team are at the mountain by 7am. They inspect the lifts every morning, per state and manufacturer regulations, before the machines open to the public at 9am. Throughout the day, she is on standby to respond if the lifts go down. In winter, most duties include troubleshooting, fixing things when they break, and various miscellaneous projects.
In the summer, when there are far fewer people on the mountain, Angie and the crew tackle their large, in-depth projects. This includes line work, one of Angie’s favorite things to do, which consists of inspecting and servicing every lift tower and all the components. Last summer “my coworker Andy and I got to wire most of the tower safeties and anemometers on the new Base to Base Gondola,” she said. “We climbed every single tower at least twice and got to hike most of the line, which was pretty cool! (And exhausting.)”
New Projects, New Challenges
For the 22/23 winter season, Angie was placed on the Base to Base Gondola, a brand-new lift for Palisades Tahoe, and a welcome challenge for Angie and the crew. She was excited to get to know a new machine, and tune into the fundamentals of what sets this lift apart from the others she previously worked on. In addition, she has learned a lot from working with the Poma engineers, furthering her knowledge with intuitive questions to better understand the programming and electrical aspects.
On top of learning a new machine, Angie took on a leadership role with the new crew. Despite it feeling daunting at times, she’s happy for the new responsibility and is using the opportunity to both grow her skills and inspire others to jump into lift maintenance. Angie didn’t have a formal background in this field, but that didn’t stop her from going after it, and she hopes others (particularly women) won’t let that hold them back. “I take a lot of pride in my work, and it has been inspiring running into other people in the industry who are also inspired by me…who use me as an example to talk about hiring more women into this field,” says Angie. “This means a lot to me, and I hope I can encourage other women to pursue this career.”