Most states that have snow-covered hills and at least a few ski lifts have what’s commonly known as a state tramway board.

But the role of that board — and the level of regulation that it imposes on its ski industry — varies widely from state to state.

Ride a chairlift in Vermont, for example, and it’s safe to assume that same chair has been ridden and inspected multiple times each winter by a full-time state inspector who knows the lift from top to bottom.

In Minnesota, on the other hand, there are no state inspectors or tramway board. It’s up to the ski resorts and their insurance companies to keep up with safety standards and inspections.

Maine is considered to be somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to regulating ski lift safety.

Maine’s Board of Elevator and Tramway Safety sets rules and has a staff of five to enforce compliance. It requires two annual lift inspections, for example, as well as separate inspections of just the “wire ropes,” or cables. But it leaves the testing and inspections mostly to private state-licensed inspectors hired by the ski resort’s insurance companies.

“How they are set up varies just as broadly as the governments of the states,” said Sid Roslund, lift safety expert with the National Ski Areas Association.

The industry association develops model safety standards, which state tramway boards typically adopt as rules. States sometimes add their own requirements, too. Maine’s tramway board, for example, requires that chairlifts have restraining bars even though the national codes do not.

Modern tramway boards were born in New Hampshire and Vermont in the early 1960s, following serious lift accidents in those states.

“The ski area owners really were the ones who came to the plate and said, ‘We want to have some independent eyes looking at this and we’ll pay for it,’ ” said Alton Barber, a 26-year Vermont state tramway inspector.

Vermont and New Hampshire, like Maine, pay for their tramway boards with fees from ski areas. But those two states have larger ski industries than Maine’s, and they devote more full-time staff to ski lift oversight.

Maine has 18 ski areas and 94 lifts. The state’s $471,000-a-year board has a five-person staff that spends about 10 percent of its time overseeing ski lift safety. Most of its time is spent on elevator oversight.

Vermont has 30 resorts and 184 ski lifts. It has a $376,000-a-year tramway board with a team of state inspectors who inspect, test and monitor lifts full time and year-round.

Barber and other Vermont inspectors conduct the annual licensing check and then do unannounced spot inspections of each lift about three times during the winter. They examine operation logs, check mechanical components and take rides, looking and listening for anything out of the ordinary, said Robert McLeod, head of Vermont’s Tramway Safety Division.

The recurring, random checks sometimes lead to shutdown orders, something that happens rarely in Maine.

“One of my technicians closed down a lift a month ago or so. He got to a lift and found that the auxiliary motor hadn’t been started in three weeks,” McLeod said. The inspector made the resort empty and shut down the chairs until it tested the auxiliary motor, which it is required to do every morning, he said.

In summer, Vermont’s inspectors do comprehensive load tests and monitor lift repairs and maintenance.

New Hampshire, which has about 20 resorts and 165 lifts, has full-time inspectors and a board that operates much like Vermont’s, except that it devotes some resources to oversight of amusement rides.

The state doesn’t want to rely on insurance companies for ski lift safety, said Briggs Lockwood, chief of the New Hampshire Tramway and Amusement Ride Safety Bureau. “Somebody has to show up that’s independent of a ski area and do the inspection,” he said.

Maine’s approach of partnering with insurance companies and private inspectors, however, is a common model among other states, especially states with somewhat smaller ski industries.

Maine has higher standards for the licensing of private inspectors than many states, said Maynard Russell, an inspector from Greenville who works around the country. And the partnership with insurance companies allows the state to get expert inspectors without having to pay their salaries.

“Ski lifts are fairly specialized. To have a person on staff just looking at lifts could be a little expensive,” he said.

Massachusetts has an oversight system similar to Maine’s. It has 15 ski areas and 76 lifts, although none of its ski mountains are close to the size of Sugarloaf or Sunday River.

Massachusetts has an appointed Recreational Tramway Board, which gets limited administrative support from the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety.

The only cost of the state’s program is the $31-per-day stipend for the five board members, who meet about four times a year and do most of the actual oversight work, said Beth McLaughlin, chief of staff and general counsel for the Public Safety Department.

As in Maine, required inspections are done by insurance companies and private inspectors. The board meets to grant licenses or take any needed enforcement action, McLaughlin said. If an accident required investigation, a state engineer would be assigned.

While it’s easy to compare approaches to oversight, it’s hard to prove one system has a better safety record than another, said Roslund, the National Ski Areas Association safety expert. There are relatively few serious lift accidents and too many possible factors, he said.

Vermont officials, for example, said that they have not had any serious accidents similar to the one at Sugarloaf in recent memory.

A Massachusetts official said the same thing about that state’s safety record.