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The Love and Lore of the Pali Lift



Header photo: Bottom of Pali 1981. Photo courtesy of Barbara Martin

The Pallavicini Lift, aka the Center of the Universe aka the Black Jewel of the Basin, has a special magic. We asked two longtime A-Basin skiers who happen to be married to each other and who happen to have worked here for a very long time, why Pali is so special to them and others. 

Peggy Hiller, A-Basin VP of Operations

Back in the early 90s, well before I worked at A-Basin, I was skiing there with (then-boyfriend, now-husband) Keith Hiller and was wearing really tight black ski pants, the kind you tuck into your ski boots, and a huge brightly colored jacket. It was the way you wanted to look like in the 80s, even though it was the 90s.

We were skiing in a pack and at the top of the Pali lift I could hear someone asking who the cute girl was with the tight pants. That’s just what it felt like to be at the “center of the universe.” Pali was the place to see and be seen.

throwback top of Pali Top of Pali, early 90s. Photo thanks to Peggy Hiller

In the 90s, A-Basin was just the frontside (no Beavers, no Montezuma Bowl). The Pali lift maze on a powder day could be a 15-20 minute wait. There’d be snowballs and tennis balls thrown around the lift line. It was a hangout spot. You’d catch up with people by yelling across lift lanes. Then you would hang out again at the top of the lift. It was almost like après ski but you’re still skiing. Now we don’t like waiting in line but, back then, the Pali line was a scene. And then there’s The Beach. You could lap the Pali, pick up someone, lap Pali again, go have a beer.

It’s a “Pali Head” community. Everyone wanted to be cool in the lift line but then you had to prove yourself on the terrain. That was freaky to me. I was always trying to ski at the back of the pack; I was never first because I wanted to pick my lines. But it was always fun and you were always equal on the Pali. Just to be in that line and riding the chair to the top, those were the cool kids. You’d get down and compare notes on the terrain conditions and hot lines.

Skiing Pali terrain in the early 1990s. Photo thanks to Peggy Hiller

When I started working here, I could literally hear people waiting in line cheering and yelling when the lift opened—all the way up in my office. People riding that lift and skiing that terrain are truly sharing an experience. Also, the double chair is the perfect size to get a little smooch from your honey.

Keith Hiller, A-Basin ski patroller

I was the lead liftie at the bottom of Pali in 1987-88 [before becoming a ski patroller]. The thing with Pali is the quick access to such special terrain. There’s just no other chair like it that has that kind of terrain that you can get to so quick and just pull laps.

And it’s always where all the locals hung out. You know, there were just two of you on the chair so you could get to know all the locals. You got all the good gossip and chitchat at Pali. It’s still a special social place. People wonder why there’s always a crowd at the top and it’s just because people are catching up.

Keith (right), a friend, and a 1977 Cadillac Coupe de Ville in the A-Basin Early Riser parking lot, either 1987 or '88. 

Besides the East Wall, early season Pali routes are game on for ski patrol. When you commit to ski cutting after throwing some charges on those early morning routes, it will put the hair up on the back of your neck. Well, if it’s not already up, but it should be. You don’t put the rookies in there, so to speak. When we get the Pali open and we can drop the rope, the locals love you. That’s why I patrol. People are stoked and then I think “This job is awesome.” That’s satisfaction.

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