The LEGO Group has not been afraid to explore non-standard locations with the Friends line. The flagship set of the latest winter themed destination takes the girls to the icy ski slopes
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It is a frequent complaint leveled at evergreen LEGO themes – not enough variety. After all, there are only so many different ways to build a police station or a fire station before they all start running together a bit. It is not a critique that is fair to the LEGO Friends line though. Since it was first established, designers have not hesitated to place the group into a whole host of exotic and even dangerous situations from the deep jungle to the world of showbiz. In 41324 Snow Resort Ski Lift they are now ascending to the high mountains for winter themed fun.
The highlight of 41324 is the ski lift that justifies the entire set. As far as I am concerned, the LEGO Group has not made enough working trams that traverse open spaces. The last one I can remember is the often overlooked Power Miners base which used a similar mechanism to transport mine spoils over a lava river. While not quite as grand, the ski lift here is an eminently satisfying build that functions perfectly. This type of play feature is rare so it does not feel like something that has been done time after time like an exploding wall. Through the clever use of a bar mounted at the base of the lift’s chair mini-dolls can easily and securely ride from the bottom to the top of the mountain.
LEGO Friends has established a formula through the years, a set of rules if you will that all of the substantial sets tend to follow. In no particular order they are:
- Multiple disparate models must be included.
- There must be one cute animal for the girls to coo over.
- An eatery or food preparation location must be present in some fashion.
Check, check and check for Snow Resort Ski Lift.
While that first rule normally bothers me, in this case the disparate models make sense. An equipment rental station and slope map will surely fall prey to the curse of the lost separate model, but such facilities are standard fare on actual ski slopes. Likewise, major resorts will often have restaurants atop their peaks which makes an eatery here feel a lot less forced than in some other Friends models. The rustic alpine charm and aesthetic is imbued in the small chateau which sits atop the mountain despite its relatively small size.
The only part rule which feels forced within 41234 is the cute animal. What appears to be a baby grizzly is included adjacent to a partially frozen lake build. While I am sure no kids will come to harm from it, the backpacker in me saw only two things when building that part of the set – a baby bear with no mama and ice of questionable integrity. Run away girls, stay safe.
Having ridden up the excellent lift and dined at the charming chateau we now come face to face with 41324 Snow Resort Ski Lift‘s undoing – the ski ‘hill’. The LEGO Group has long struggled with mountain based sets, many have risen, few have soared. The reason for this is simple, which is that proper mountains take a ton of plastic, so most price points simply cannot accommodate the amount of bricks required to do it right. This particular alpine peak rises no higher than a single story building. Designers somewhat masked this fact by including the lift towers and restaurant roof that elevate the profile, but at the end of the day the mountain top is six studs high.
Insult is added to injury with the ski hill itself. For some inexplicable reason designers opted to follow up a well crafted launching mechanism with a studded ski slope. This rough ride is a disaster because it is way too short, blink and your figure will be on the ground. They will be lying there due to problem number two – studs catch the skis and crash the figure. Finally, the run is made even more unsatisfactory because you cannot race two figures at the same time. There is even a model for this in the LEGO Group’s past product portfolio, 3538 Snowboard Boarder Cross Race. While by no means a good looking set, it was a long track that could pit two figures against each other.
The lack of play potential is unfortunate because it reduces what is otherwise a really cool set to nothing more than an odd looking restaurant that takes a bit of time to get to. Children will quickly grow bored of insufficient ski slope and want to move on to other things, namely building their own huge ski run with parallel tracks to race their figures down. This proved immensely satisfying to my girls as they are still playing with it weeks later, and that highlights the unfortunate downfall of this set. If you are going to build a ski set, it needs a proper ski hill and 41324 just does not have it.
Couple that with the set’s odd footprint that makes storing it anywhere cumbersome and I would anticipate that for most this will quickly start to collect dust. The lack of desirable colours or unique parts similarly reduce this set’s utility for AFOLs.
I applaud the LEGO Group for taking a chance with something really unique, and they came close to succeeding. In the end, a slightly higher price tag with a properly executed racing slope would have elevated this set from a miss to something worth owning.
This product was provided for review by the LEGO Group.
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