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If you’re new to skiing, or skiing with kids, the magic carpet is one of the more important things to look for at a ski resort. While a magic carpet (also known as a surface lift), isn’t magic in any way, it does make learning to ski SO MUCH EASIER. A magic carpet is a lot like a moving walkway conveyor belt that you’ll find at a mall or airport – except you wear your skis on it and it takes you up the hill.
A magic carpet makes skiing easier for beginners since you don’t have to worry about getting on and off a chairlift. In the past, most resorts had a beginner chairlift or even a tow rope (literally the WORST for little kids) to get you up the hill. The problem is that it can be difficult or scary to get on and off a chairlift, especially when you barely know how to ski. You’ll typically find magic carpets or ski surface lifts at the beginner area of a ski resort, so if you’re new to the sport, this is a good place to start.
Who Are Magic Carpet Ski Lifts For?
Magic carpets are a godsend for families and beginners, and I can’t stress this enough. If you’ve ever tried getting a wobbly toddler onto a chairlift, and then holding them still while you’re 30 feet in the air, you’ll understand the value of a surface lift that requires nothing more than standing. We typically encourage beginners to stay at the magic caret learning area until they can stop and do a few turns.
Magic Carpet Surface Lifts for Beginners
For those just starting to learn the ropes—be it kids or adults—the magic carpet provides a hassle-free experience. The lift takes you up a gentle slope, allowing you to practice your pizza turns and snowplow stops without the fear of tumbling down a steep hill. Magic carpets are generally on VERY GENTLE slopes, so while this is a good place to learn the mechanics of skiing, you’ll still need plenty of practice on green beginner hills after you master the magic carpet area.
Magic Carpets for Kids
If you’re skiing with kids, the best thing about a surface lift is that kids can go on them by themselves (after a little help and instruction the first few times). This is perfect if you have multiple kids since you can give focused attention to one, while another is riding the lift up independently. Since surface ski lifts are generally pretty short, I can usually help one kid on their way down, while their sibling is going up, and then I can quickly hike up to get closer to the one who just got to the top to help them. Using a magic carpet ski lift maximizes your time on the snow which is perfect when you’re working on foundational skills. Even our kids who are intermediate skiers, love taking a few runs on the magic carpet because it’s just FUN!
As a mom who loves skiing, I find this a great way to get young children acclimated to the ski environment without overwhelming them.
Ski Schools with a Magic Carpet
Many ski schools prefer magic carpets for their beginner classes. The lift allows instructors to focus on teaching the basics of skiing or snowboarding, rather than spending precious time helping students navigate a more complex lift system.
NOTE: Some resorts have a magic carpet surface lift that’s designated for ski school only. When in doubt, call ahead to ask the resort if families can use the lift as well. Often, the ski school will just use the magic carpet in the morning and they’re happy to let families use it in the afternoon.
How to Ride a Magic Carpet Safely
Safety is paramount when you’re enjoying the great outdoors, especially when you’re with your family. So, let’s cover the dos and don’ts of using a magic carpet.
- Wait for Your Turn: There will typically be a line leading up to the magic carpet. Wait patiently for those ahead of you to step onto the conveyor. Give other people space in case someone falls down (which is very common for beginners).
- Prep Kids For What to Expect: Have your kids watch what the people in front of you do. Point out how far apart they are spaced (6-8 feet is usually ideal). Remind them to keep their skis pointed forward and to not walk around on the carpet. Let them know that they’ll be standing alone and not with mom and dad (except for tiny toddlers who will need help). Focus on how fun and easy it looks!
- Prepare for Boarding: As you approach the start of the magic carpet, instruct your kids to shuffle their skis. Just little movements are really all it takes to get onto the magic carpet. I tell my kids to “shuffle” or “wiggle your skis” to give them a visual of what to do.
- Step On: When it’s your turn, simply step onto the surface lift, which will be moving at a slow, constant speed. You’ll start gliding up the hill and that’s all you need to do!
Tips for getting kids on a magic carpet:
Kids who are just learning to ski should practice walking around in their skis a bit before getting onto the magic carpet. Younger kids often still need a little push from behind to get them moving. If you have a beginner, stand behind them (with your skis straddling them), and give them a little push onto the magic carpet. When they’re about 8 feet away, you can get on. If you have a very nervous child or a very young toddler, just let the lift attendant know. Often, they’ll let you ride up standing right behind them. For tiny toddlers, we just have them between our legs and hold onto their harness handle as they’re getting on and off.
Riding Up a Magic Carpet Ski Lift
Stand Still: Once you’re on, stand upright and enjoy the ride. Don’t walk, turn around, or try to get off the sides.
- Look Ahead: As you approach the end of the magic carpet, get ready to step off.
- Step Off: The moment you reach the end, simply step off the conveyor onto the snow. Use the same shuffle or wiggle to get off as you did to get on.
- Move Away Quickly: It’s important to clear the exit area and go off to the side so that there’s room for people behind you to get off.
Tips for getting kids off a magic carpet ski lift:
As a parent, you’ll always want to be riding behind your child, not in front of them. As you’re riding up, explain to them that they’ll need to shuffle as they get off the end and keep moving until they get all the way to one side or another of the ski hill. Just talk to them and remind them to keep going since most kids only move a few steps and this often results in others behind them crashing into them. If they don’t move, squat down a little, grab them around the waist and shuttle out of the way with them between your legs.
How Long Should Kids Spend learning to ski on the Magic Carpet Ski Lift?
There is no set length of time that kids should spend on the magic carpet, but the focus should be on the skills they learn. Before kids can ski on a regular lift, it’s helpful to have them able to stop and do some simple turns. Some kids will be able to do that after a run or two and other kids (especially really young kids), will take significantly longer.
After they have figured these skills out, move up to an easy green on a beginner chairlift. They’ll still need plenty of practice there as well.
Surface Magic Carpet Lifts vs Chairlifts
Not all ski resorts will have a magic carpet/surface lift learning area, and that’s okay. While they do make things easier, they’re not essential. The advantage of a magic carpet is that they can take out some of the more difficult skills required to ride a chairlift, which can be challenging with young kids or beginners.
However, we also love chairlifts since they’re longer and allow you to access more terrain. Magic Carpets are generally only found on very gentle slopes, so to advance in your ski skills, you’ll need to learn to ride a chairlift on terrain that’s more challenging.
At the end of the day, if I had kids who were just learning how to ski and I were choosing between a resort with a surface lift learning area, and one without, I would pick the resort with the surface magic carpet lift every day!