What do ...

… the T-bar lift operators do during the summer?

… the T-bar lift operators do during the summer? - What do ...

What is orange and black and a must-have at any ski resort since 1934? The T-bar lift. Invented by Zurich-born engineer Ernst Gustav Constam in the late 1920s, it embarked on its first triumphal journey from the Bolgen slopes in Davos. Although 'self-service T-bars' have now been introduced, here on the Bolgen slopes the lift operators still gallantly pass the T-bars to skiers. But what exactly do these operators actually do the rest of the year? 

"During the summer, I’m usually out on the hiking trails," says Jürg Sprecher. What may sound like a holiday is in fact just as hard as working during the winter. As the winter season draws to a close around Easter for the 65-year-old chief operator of the Bolgen lift in Davos, his next job already awaits out in the fresh air. Well into the autumn, he tends to the hiking trails around his home town Davos, putting up signs and taking them down again in October – as well as little bridges, which are just as susceptible to avalanches as the signs. He also renews the red-and-white markings and checks for any potential rockfalls. And he does this four days a week. Admittedly, not quite as many days as he spends working the lift. "But at my age, I have to take things a little easier," he says, with a hearty laugh.

After all, the season is tough enough. Come rain or shine, he and his two colleagues can be found standing by the Bolgen lift – in the case of Jürg Sprecher, for ten years now. There are always two operators on duty at any one time, each having two days off after a five-day week. According to the chief lift operator, "Christmas and New Year are extremely busy, but even the winter holidays and Easter can get hectic, depending on the weather". It may no longer be the original from 1934, but today’s Bolgen lift has still clocked up around 80 years of service. Rather than being one of the 'self-service T-bars', this one is operated by Sprecher and his colleagues, who pass the T-bars to each and every visitor. Ultimately, it engages people in conversation, which is a definite bonus for the chief lift operator. Plus there’s generally always something that needs explaining: "There are lots of beginners and children with skiing schools at the Bolgen lift."

Relaxing on a hunt
Before working on the Bolgen lift, Jürg Sprecher spent 26 years with the Schatzalp railway – albeit in the office. He now enjoys being out in the fresh air every day: "It’s a whole new kind of change." Even if it means not being able to take holiday during the winter. For even now, after more than 80 years in service, the Bolgen lift runs all winter long, including on Christmas Eve. Only after eight to ten months of hard work is Sprecher able to take holiday and spend time enjoying his hobby: hunting small and large game. He mainly searches for chamois in the woods around Davos – leaving all thoughts of the hustle and bustle of the tourist season behind. As soon as the first flakes of snow start to fall, and no later than 20 December, he can then be found by 'his' Bolgen lift at 8:30 am, five times a week, checking the emergency stopping points, cable and track, and looking forward to greeting visitors arriving from 9:30 am onwards to make their first encounter with the slopes and the world’s first T-bar lift.