Did a Bear Ride a Ski Lift for 2 Hours?

Well someone definitely got taken for a ride...

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A picture of a bear riding a ski lift left some with questions.
Image via Wikipedia

Claim

A photograph shows a bear on a ski lift in Vail, Colorado, in June 2021.

Rating

Miscaptioned
Miscaptioned
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Origin

In June 2021, an image that apparently showed a bear riding a chair lift circulated on social media along with a piece of text that claimed the bear somehow activated the ski lift, climbed aboard, and went for a two-hour ride:

This backstory appears to be a work of fiction. We weren’t able to find any news reports about a pair of bears who took a joyride on a ski lift in Vail, Colorado. We’re also skeptical of this story because this image was not taken recently, but is actually several years old. 

So while this image may not show a bear that activated a ski lift in Vail, Colorado, does it show a real bear riding a chair lift at all? 

This image has been online since at least 2013. The earliest postings that we could find were shared with the word “telesiege,” the French word for chair lift, which may indicate that this image was taken in France. But does it show a bear riding the ski lift? Here’s a larger version of this photograph:

Even in this larger image, it’s difficult to discern too many details of this bear-shaped object. It appears that this “bear” is reclining on the chair lift, which doesn’t seem very natural. While we can’t definitively say what this bear-shaped object really is, our best guess is that this a person in a bear costume:

We haven’t been able to find any news reports about bears riding chair lifts in Colorado, France, or any other location. The only relevant newspaper item we were able to uncover was a children’s story written by Mabel Harmer in 1955.

Although we have not found any records of bears riding chair lifts, we have seen videos of bears near chairlifts. In January 2021, a person riding a chairlift in Romania filmed a bear as it chased a skier down the mountain