Being on a chairlift or a gondola is fundamentally a very unnatural position to be in. Think about it, you're sitting in an exposed chair or a flimsy cabin, often hundreds of feet above the ground, and the only thing separating you from plunging to your certain doom is a thin metal cable.

Add in the often shitty visibility and the buffeting by mountain winds and it's a miracle that anyone reaches the top of a lift without being reduced to a gibbering nervous wreck - let alone is able to actually snowboard down afterwards! It's amazing what the human mind starts to consider 'normal' after a while eh?

But while most lifts feel pretty safe, there are still some out there capable of making even the most acclimatised rider shit their pants.

We reckon these are the five scariest lifts in the world...


Type: Gondola.

Route: Just outside the Sporthotel Strasse in Mayrhofen's town centre right to the top of the Ubungsland Penken, a kilometre above.

Highest point above the ground: 170 metres.

Age: Built in the early 1990's.

What happens? From the bottom it looks like a regular lift, perhaps a little scary as it goes over the town centre and climbs high above the river meandering through the valley. But it's when the lift hits the one and only pylon that things really hot up. After going through an un-necessary dog-leg, the gondolas take on a sustained gap of horrifying height until the top station catches and releases each load of trembling tourists.

Dangers: High winds - a regular occurrence in the Zillertal valley - can make the gondolas swing violently.

Random fact: The family that owns the Sporthotel Strasse paid for the gondola to be re-routed (hence the dogleg) so that their hotel would be the closest to Mayerhofen’s main lift.

Chance of it coming off the cable: Unlikely, given it's the valley's premier lift. Having said that, the gondolas do clamp themselves to the cable, and there's always the chance of a freak gust.... But at least you'd get to recite the Lord's Prayer in full before you hit the ground.

Don't get on… if you hate sustained vertical drops in swinging gondolas.


Type: Cablecar.

Route: Chamonix town centre, roughly 1050 metres high, to the top of a rock spine near an obvious plateau on Mt Blanc at 3842 metres. A vertical rise of nearly 3 kilometres!

Highest point above the ground: Technically this lift never gets higher than 70 metres above the ground, but for the top section of the journey the ground in question is a cliff of about 80 degrees steepness and 500 metres in height – a fall down which would be unspeakably hideous.

Age: Originally built in the 50's (the bottom lift station has a cable car museum), the current lift was installed in the late 1980's.

What happens? The first section from the town to the mid station is a breeze. Then, when you look at the almighty, pylon-free chasm you're about to cross to get to the top station, your pants fill.

Danger: High winds, rocks falling off the cliff, temperature differences in the cables, avalanches and cornice falls, plus classic French overcrowding that pushes the car beyond its weight limit. What more do you need?

Random fact: The immense building at the top was built to look like a needle. The Aiguille du Midi translates as 'the midday needle' because from Chamonix town centre the sun shines directly behind the spiky rock outcrop at midday.

Chance of it coming off the cable: In 2001 the cable frayed, meaning they could only use one side of the lift. Gulp.

Don' get on... if you hate heights. It's pretty much the scariest lift in the world. But if you can do it then you'll have no problems with the Brevent cablecar on the other side of the valley.


Type: Chairlifts.

Route: All over Kyrgyzstan's premier resort.

Highest point above the ground: Surprisingly there's nothing over about 20 metres high in this resort, but then again it's not height that make these lifts scary. No, the fact that the power sometimes shuts off in resort and leaves holidaymakers stranded in the minus 20 conditions is what puts people off.

Age: Most lifts were built in the 80's, but some date back earlier. Until recently they were still operating a lift that (rumour had it) the Red Army brought back from a German resort at the end of World War Two!

What happens? Not much… if all goes to plan. But Karakol is still probably the sketchiest resort in this article, because while it would be hideous to experience a cable accident anywhere (and there are certainly higher lifts out there) it's a long way from Karakol to the nearest hospital - down a frozen dirt road.

Danger: Danger... Low Voltage! When we touch, when we freeze.

Random fact: If the resort shuts for a day, it may be because President Nazarbayev is over from neighbouring Kazakhstan and wants to ski without the crowds. Yes - it happens from time to time.

Chance of a chair coming off the cable: High. But don't worry, you'll probably land in some powder - it's what the country is famous for.

Don't get on… Without your thermals on.


Type: Cablecar.

Route: Paisey Nancroix to La Plagne. Funnily enough it’s a journey with no discernable increase in altitude. The cable is virtually horizontal.

Height: The mid section reaches a dizzying height of 380 metres - the highest lifted point from the ground in Europe.

Age: The 'Express opened in 2004.

What happens? Although the drop as the cable car spans the valley is an absolute whopper, you're only over the highest point for a few seconds. It's actually a ravine, and for the rest of the trip you're a safe-ish 150m above the rocks. OK, we realise that sounds stupid but basically this isn't the world's sketchiest lift, so it feels fine.

Dangers: In 2003, before the lift opened to the public, one of the test drivers (no doubt several vin chaud's to the good) apparentlymanaged to crash the cable car into the station on the Peisey-Vallandry side. He was supposedly travelling at about 20kmh at the time - 10 times the normal docking speed! And who said the French were bad drivers? Thankfully, they've since put a computer in charge of the controls...

Random fact: The Vanoise Express is also France's first double-decker cable car.

Chance of it coming off the cable: Low.

Don't get on… if you suffer from claustrophobia. The lift can take up to 300 people in one go.


Type: Cablecar.

Route: The mid station on the Freccia side of Cortina all the way to the top viewing platform at over 3000 metres, which is also a restaurant.

Highest point above the ground: 300 solid metres. Most of the way up too. And you'll have to come down in the thing since there's no run from the top.

Age: This is a classic ,early 1960's James Bond-style cablecar. It's ancient.

What happens? Put simply, you get in this rickety old cable car, leave the station and immediately head skyward. After ten seconds you’re hundreds of metres above the ground and will stay that way until you hit the one pylon on the route – a mangled, rusty old structure hanging on the edge of a whoppercock cliff.

Dangers: Old cables, sketchy doors that are hand-bolted, fragile aluminium from four decades ago, rock falls, avalanches, vertigo, sphincter over-tightening, claustrophobia, fur coats suffocating you with their musty stench.... the list is endless.

Random fact: Cortina is where they filmed Cliffhanger starring Sylvester Stallone. He shat his pants there too, so you're in good company.

Chance of it coming off the cable: In 1998 an American fighter jet cut the cable in an Italian resort and the car plummeted over 100 metres killing everyone on board. The Americans were tried by a military court in the US, and (unsurprisingly, given the nature of American military 'justice') were basically let off scott free. But don't worry, if the crazy yanks don't get you, the 50-year old engineering might.

Don't get on… if you haven't got a deathwish.


Type: Cablecar.

Route: From Campan to the top of La Mongie. A ball-bag tightening span and no mistake.

Height: At its highest point, the cars are ludicrously high. They seemed reluctant to release the precise figure but check the picture!

Age: Built in 2000, it’s getting on to being two decades old.

What happens? Simple: this is the classic cable car where the designers looked the options and decided that the best way to span the gap was to just go for it. Who cares if that means dangling thousands of feet in the air? Now pass me that bottle of Pastis and lets get this thing made Pierre.

Dangers: Not many. This is new technology with all the latest safety features.

Random fact: La Mongie is the closest resort to Hossegor and Biarritz. So you could shit yourself on the cable car then go and get an utter drubbing in the triple overhead waves too. What a weekend.

Chance of it coming off the cable: Low.

Don't get on… If you’re claustrophobic – the lifties cram the cars to their 50 person capacity.