Old chairlifts find new purpose with Denver startup

hanging chairlift bench

Ski Lift Designs sells lift chairs attached to ceilings for $1,600. (Ski Lift Designs)

If there’s a chairlift chair rusting in a junk pile in North America, Jacques Boiteau and his crew of “chairlift hoarders” will find it. Then they’ll drag it back to Denver and recondition it into mountain-themed furniture.

Since launching Ski Lift Designs last year, the four friends have collected 250 old chairlift chairs to re-purpose into indoor and patio furniture.

The finished product costs between $1,000 and $2,500.

The group spends off-hours cold calling resorts to track old chairlifts that have been cast off in favor of high-speed, larger lifts.

“Even smaller ski areas are taking them out now. High-speed quads are taking them over,” Boiteau said. “(This) is a really cool way to save these chairs before they get cut up and thrown away from the ski resorts.”

Boiteau, along with fiancee McCall Perry and co-owners Eric Hubbell and Matt Evans, have combed through old junk yards and resort scrap piles in Washington, Arizona and parts of Canada searching for old chairlifts. Some date to the 1950s.

Boiteau handles some of the metal fabrication himself, but the company also hires technicians to strip the chairs before they’re ready for custom installation. Ski Lift Designs can make the chairs into benches with legs, hanging from the ceiling or pivoting in the yard.

jacques boiteau

Co-founder Jacques Boiteau. (Ski Lift Designs)

“No one has really taken them to the level that does these chairs justice,” Boiteau said.

“It’s an interesting process because no chair is the same … You hang it up and it’s not centered and not right.”

Boiteau, 32, works as a Chevron engineer. He grew up skiing on the double chair at Big Mountain in Montana with his brother and parents, who owned a ski shop.

Evans received a law degree from CU Boulder and works in real estate for Northstar Commercial Partners. Hubbell, 31, has launched two apps. And Perry, 29, is a real estate broker for Ecospace Commercial. The whole group lives around Denver.

“We all are currently doing this on the side,” Boiteau said. “The goal is to get it slowly but surely where we have (employees) go on full time.”

Boiteau said the group invested $35,000 to launch, and while some people give them old lifts for free, they spend approximately $400 per chair, including travel costs.

The company also has expanded to selling old gondolas.

“It’s a little bit of ‘American Pickers’ for all things ski now,” Boiteau said.

Ski Lift Designs has sold 50 chairs. The company had its best month in December, when it sold 12.

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