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How old is old enough for a kid (or teen) to ski alone?

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

I have a 14 yr. old nephew that loves skiing.  He lives in Hong Kong and Feb.this year was the 1st time he travelled by himself from HK to Vancouver to spend a week skiing with me at Whistler (WB).

 

Before WB, he skied twice on a wk long school arranged ski trip to Verbier.  WB was the 1st time I ever skied with him and on the 1st day, I realized he clearly was a better and faster skier than me.  We spent 6 days at WB, he skied with me 3 days and took 3 day group lessons.  Originally I signed up 1 day lesson for him and was planning to ski w/ him the remaining 5 days.  He enjoyed his 1st lesson so much that he asked me to sign him up for 2 more lessons, which I happily obliged.  

 

During the 3 days I skied w/ him,I felt bad for the following reasons: 1) that I was such a slow poke and he always had to wait for me at the trial split or chair lift. Sometimes, he waited for a long time because I got stuck on a slope and took me forever to ski down. 2) He only gets to ski once a year. Of course I want him to maximize the time on the slope. I figured for all these time that he wasted to wait for me, he could have taken the time to ski by himself and got few more runs out of it.  

 

Another problem is I have bad knees and on our last day, my knees were hurting and I asked if he wanted to ski by himself for a run or two and I could just wait for him at the chair lift.  He said no, he rather stick with me, he said it's ok if we just called it a day.... I know in my heart that he wanted to ski until the last chair.  

 

I felt guilty that with my limited ability, I "deprived" his time on ski slopes.  

 

So my question to you is:

1) How old is old enough for a kid (or teen) to ski alone?
2) If you let the kid to ski alone, what measure(s) do you take to make sure he/she is safe and not in any harms way?

 

At WB, he took the teen group lesson (age 13-17) and he could advance to level 4 if he returns there next year.  But he said he is not interested in level 4 lesson because the materials they cover is more focused on terrain park (how to do jumps and tricks). In this case, what are other options?  Do resorts allow teen to join adult lesson even though he is not adult?   

 

Also, I don't have many ski friends and they don't have kids.  So it is not like I can pair him up with a friend or something...  It will only be him and me to go on ski trip.  I doubt we can quickly find a buddy or friend to ski with during our trip. 

 

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

post #2 of 25
Whistler's a big place. Lots of areas to get into trouble and it's not like he grew up there. And 14 year olds like to push the limits sometimes. So, me, and the kid's not my kid? I'd stay with him. That German exchange student (16 years old) that died in a tree well here just sticks in my mind.
post #3 of 25
Fourteen is plenty old to ski alone provided he's responsible. Responsible at Whistler means knowing you can get into serious trouble and die or be lost. In general it's not recommended to ski alone in trees and slide prone or remote areas. it sounds like he doesn't go into those areas.

I see he spent a week in Verbier. That's a big place too. Plenty of hazards. What was the school trip structure there? Kids free, with teacher/guide?

I would contact Whistler ski school and see options. I find it difficult to believe the next step is only park. Not sure of what level you speak of. In US level 4 would certainly not be doing "only" park. Probably no park at all, maybe some half pipe. Maybe small jumps. Depends on kids, and real level.

Some people dislike skiing alone and some like it.

There is no way to protect someone other than educating them in hazards, having emergency plan and probably phone.
post #4 of 25

Check out my unofficial guide to Sun Peaks linked below. There are lots of situations where you can ski an easier run and your nephew a difficult run and then meet at the bottom of the chairlift. While there is a good selection of black diamond runs there is no extreme terrain making it a good place to turn kids loose on their own.

post #5 of 25
You forgot the link.
post #6 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by fosphenytoin View Post
 

During the 3 days I skied w/ him,I felt bad for the following reasons: 1) that I was such a slow poke and he always had to wait for me at the trial split or chair lift. Sometimes, he waited for a long time because I got stuck on a slope and took me forever to ski down. 2) He only gets to ski once a year. Of course I want him to maximize the time on the slope. I figured for all these time that he wasted to wait for me, he could have taken the time to ski by himself and got few more runs out of it.  

 

Another problem is I have bad knees and on our last day, my knees were hurting and I asked if he wanted to ski by himself for a run or two and I could just wait for him at the chair lift.  He said no, he rather stick with me, he said it's ok if we just called it a day.... I know in my heart that he wanted to ski until the last chair.  

 

 

Sounds like the kid is bought up right. Thumbs Up

 

Unlike the usual level 1-9 found in PSIA, the Whistler ski school levels goes from 1-6. Like Tog said, doubted level 4 is mostly pipe & park. 

I took an all day level 6 lesson with a CSIA L4 in 2009 and had a great time. Maybe he just like free skiing.  

Time in ski school is a quick way to improve one's skiing skill but must be balanced with plenty of free skiing. Keep it fun.    

post #7 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tog View Post

You forgot the link.


It's in his signature line.

post #8 of 25

The problem with letting a kid ski by himself at Whitler/Blackcomb is the size of the place.  If you were at a smaller resort where he was more contained it would be easier to say "yes" to his independence.  W/B is not like that, though.  If he could reliably be held to one chair with a regular check in schedule or some other such plan it could work.  It depends on the kind of person he is and if he can be relied on to do what he's supposed to do.

 

If you decide to do this, make sure he has a cell phone on him so he can call if needed.

post #9 of 25

Depends on the size as mentioned above, and also depends on skiing ability.  My oldest is 13 and I let him go at smaller, 100-200 acre places we are familiar with.  He's probably about a level 6-7 skier being able to get down most blacks but few double blacks without serious trouble.  Before letting him loose at a place with terrain way beyond his ability we look at the trail map and make sure he knows what lifts and trails to avoid.

 

Cell phone coverage is unreliable out on the mountains and he's afraid of wrecking his phone.  We use 2-way radios to keep in contact at larger resorts.  As long as we connect every 30 minutes or so and he's staying on terrain within his ability I'd be OK with him skiing solo runs at larger places.

post #10 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Posaune View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tog View Post

You forgot the link.

It's in his signature line.
Hmm... That's the problem with mobile. It's not there.
Isn't Sun Peaks at Lake Louise?
post #11 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tog View Post


Hmm... That's the problem with mobile. It's not there.
Isn't Sun Peaks at Lake Louise?

 

Sun Peaks is about a 6 hour drive west of Lake Louise and as such is about half way between LL and Whistler. The 2 resorts are tied at 4270 acres of skiable terrain, second largest in Canada. Sun Peaks gets more snow than LL, not as much really cold weather, and way less skier visits. The Whitehorn One area of LL, accessible only by platter lift, gives LL more serious black diamond terrain than SP.

 

I don't know about LL, but SP has cell coverage throughout the entire 4270 acres.

post #12 of 25

Wow..hate to start the "back in the day" talk..but I was skiing alone at age 9!!

post #13 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott43 View Post

Wow..hate to start the "back in the day" talk..but I was skiing alone at age 9!!

But something tells me you didn't normally live in Hong Kong and then were making your first visit to a ski area the size of Whistler. And it's your aunt making the decision.
post #14 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post


But something tells me you didn't normally live in Hong Kong and then were making your first visit to a ski area the size of Whistler. And it's your aunt making the decision.


All true.  :D  What you're saying is I AM a curmudgeon!!  :)

post #15 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by fosphenytoin View Post
 

I have a 14 yr. old nephew that loves skiing.  He lives in Hong Kong and Feb.this year was the 1st time he travelled by himself from HK to Vancouver to spend a week skiing with me at Whistler (WB).

 

Before WB, he skied twice on a wk long school arranged ski trip to Verbier.  WB was the 1st time I ever skied with him and on the 1st day, I realized he clearly was a better and faster skier than me.  We spent 6 days at WB, he skied with me 3 days and took 3 day group lessons.  Originally I signed up 1 day lesson for him and was planning to ski w/ him the remaining 5 days.  He enjoyed his 1st lesson so much that he asked me to sign him up for 2 more lessons, which I happily obliged.  

 

During the 3 days I skied w/ him,I felt bad for the following reasons: 1) that I was such a slow poke and he always had to wait for me at the trial split or chair lift. Sometimes, he waited for a long time because I got stuck on a slope and took me forever to ski down. 2) He only gets to ski once a year. Of course I want him to maximize the time on the slope. I figured for all these time that he wasted to wait for me, he could have taken the time to ski by himself and got few more runs out of it.  

 

Another problem is I have bad knees and on our last day, my knees were hurting and I asked if he wanted to ski by himself for a run or two and I could just wait for him at the chair lift.  He said no, he rather stick with me, he said it's ok if we just called it a day.... I know in my heart that he wanted to ski until the last chair.  

 

I felt guilty that with my limited ability, I "deprived" his time on ski slopes.  

 

So my question to you is:

1) How old is old enough for a kid (or teen) to ski alone?
2) If you let the kid to ski alone, what measure(s) do you take to make sure he/she is safe and not in any harms way?

 

At WB, he took the teen group lesson (age 13-17) and he could advance to level 4 if he returns there next year.  But he said he is not interested in level 4 lesson because the materials they cover is more focused on terrain park (how to do jumps and tricks). In this case, what are other options?  Do resorts allow teen to join adult lesson even though he is not adult?   

 

Also, I don't have many ski friends and they don't have kids.  So it is not like I can pair him up with a friend or something...  It will only be him and me to go on ski trip.  I doubt we can quickly find a buddy or friend to ski with during our trip. 

 

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

 

You don't need to go all the way from being together to go completely all on his own.

 

Every resort every lift has a way down to the same lift.  So you can say I will do this lift once, you can do it twice.  And then meet at same lift.  I think you offered this but not sure exactly if you did it this way.

This does require both of you to be able to read the map and signs and have a plan for where you're going.  

You can start by saying we shouldn't need to stop at every trail split (especially the 2nd time on the run).  You should be able to say meet at the bottom of a particular lift.

But if the guy doesn't want to even do that, then he won't even be .

 

Also, at Whistler, they have free mountain tours.  You can drop him off with the tour and that is pretty much a drop-in  "group" skiing with some volunteer mountain hosts.

post #16 of 25

Depends on the kid (for some kids it could be younger), but I would say 13 is definitely old enough unless you have a very exceptional case.    However skiing back country or tree skiing and you are responsible for him, you should have him ski with someone else(not alone) and carry a whistle and compass.  Did you tell him about tree wells?

post #17 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post
 

Depends on the kid (for some kids it could be younger), but I would say 13 is definitely old enough unless you have a very exceptional case.    However skiing back country or tree skiing and you are responsible for him, you should have him ski with someone else(not alone) and carry a whistle and compass.  Did you tell him about tree wells?


Somehow I don't think a young teen who only skis once a year is pushing to go off alone into the back country, or even trees on resort.  But a good point that skiing solo in that type of terrain is quite different than skiing groomers alone.  In this case, he had never used poles before the trip to Whistler (info from a Beginner Zone thread by the OP).  I gather that during the ski week at Verbier arranged by his school in Hong Kong, the lessons he had did not include using poles.  Presumably because the kids were beginners.  Note that the OP chose to ask the question in the Family Zone.

 

I let my daughter ski with a friend of comparable ability at Alta when she was 11.  But those two kids were Level 7 (of 9) at that point and had been skiing Alta for a few spring breaks, including 2-3 days of ski school each ski week.  Before that, I let her ski with a friend at Massanutten (tiny hill with <100 acres, no off-piste terrain) at age 8.  She was skiing the blacks at Mnut by age 6 and was mature enough to know her friend was not able to ski off the lift to the summit that only has a couple black trails.  One reason I like Massanutten as a parent over Wintergreen is that it only has one base.  The layout makes it easy to get almost anywhere on the mountain in under 5 minutes (assuming a short wait on the lift line).

 

As someone else mentioned, whether or not to let a kid to ski solo depends on the layout of the ski resort as well as the age/ability and personality of the child.

post #18 of 25

In general, I think it's probably easier for a mixed ability group of any size at a smaller area to split up and take different routes, then meet back up at the base of the same lift.  Haven't been to Whistler so don't know the layout.  But at Alta, when I'm with a mixed ability group we usually spend the most time over on the Supreme lift.  The runs there are relatively short compared to Sugarloaf or Collins.  Usually the intermediates who stay on blue groomers get to the lift about the same time as the more adventurous intermediates who take a black groomers or advanced skiers who go into the trees.

 

Quote:=raytseng

Every resort every lift has a way down to the same lift.  So you can say I will do this lift once, you can do it twice.  And then meet at same lift.  I think you offered this but not sure exactly if you did it this way.

This does require both of you to be able to read the map and signs and have a plan for where you're going.  

You can start by saying we shouldn't need to stop at every trail split (especially the 2nd time on the run).  You should be able to say meet at the bottom of a particular lift.

 

Doing the same lift at different speeds work even better if there is a view of the trail from the lift.  I wouldn't worry about repeating the same trail several times, even at a big resort with lots of options.  For an improving skier who doesn't get to ski that often, skiing is fun regardless of what percentage of the mountain gets covered.  I skied only blue groomers on all of my ski trips as a working adult for a few decades.  My daughter is a social skier.  She used to ski with friends who were beginners as a tween when she could ski blacks and they could only do greens or the easiest blue.  Had a good time every trip.

post #19 of 25

Generally, we don't let our kids (10 and 12) ski alone, except at places where they are very familiar with, and only in certain circumstances. At Lake Louise and Sunshine (which they grew up skiing), they can go down certain runs with each other, and we just meet at the bottom of the lift. I think that's one of the important conditions - they have to be together. I wouldn't feel comfortable letting either one go alone, but together is ok. We won't let them go down new runs alone, and they know they can't go off trail, unless we're there. At certain places they are less familiar with, Fernie, we always ski with them, except for a few short easier trails at the bottom. I think size of the resort and familiarity are a big factor with this. I don't think I would feel comfortable with them on their own at a place like WB.

post #20 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post
 

Depends on the kid (for some kids it could be younger), but I would say 13 is definitely old enough unless you have a very exceptional case.    However skiing back country or tree skiing and you are responsible for him, you should have him ski with someone else(not alone) and carry a whistle and compass.  Did you tell him about tree wells?


Somehow I don't think a young teen who only skis once a year is pushing to go off alone into the back country, or even trees on resort.  But a good point that skiing solo in that type of terrain is quite different than skiing groomers alone.  In this case, he had never used poles before the trip to Whistler (info from a Beginner Zone thread by the OP).  I gather that during the ski week at Verbier arranged by his school in Hong Kong, the lessons he had did not include using poles.  Presumably because the kids were beginners.  Note that the OP chose to ask the question in the Family Zone.

 

I let my daughter ski with a friend of comparable ability at Alta when she was 11.  But those two kids were Level 7 (of 9) at that point and had been skiing Alta for a few spring breaks, including 2-3 days of ski school each ski week.  Before that, I let her ski with a friend at Massanutten (tiny hill with <100 acres, no off-piste terrain) at age 8.  She was skiing the blacks at Mnut by age 6 and was mature enough to know her friend was not able to ski off the lift to the summit that only has a couple black trails.  One reason I like Massanutten as a parent over Wintergreen is that it only has one base.  The layout makes it easy to get almost anywhere on the mountain in under 5 minutes (assuming a short wait on the lift line).

 

As someone else mentioned, whether or not to let a kid to ski solo depends on the layout of the ski resort as well as the age/ability and personality of the child.


That would not have stopped me at that age.  Getting lost at a ski resort? :confused

Maybe it's been too long since you needed one, but they do have trail maps at ski resorts.  When I was 10 and living in Montreal, I used to travel all over the city on my own (a dime got you a bus ticket with a transfer to the Metro (subway).  When I was 13, I hitch-hiked back from Quebec City to my (new) home in Ontario.  A 13 year old has enough sense to navigate to find his way to an appointed destination at a ski resort.  Just teach him how to side slip and hockey stop and he'll be fine -  Uh wait!  by the sounds of things he already knows that, just.warn him about tree wells.

post #21 of 25
We have two kids, one the younger one no problem at about 12 or 13 (currently going on 15). The older one going on 18, no, medical issues combined with memory issues.

So depends on the kid. I would say does he speak English enough to communicate (to get out of trouble), if so a little push is order, provided he understands the limits and rules you set.
post #22 of 25
Unfortunately there no single answer, it just does depend on the kid.
I let my 14 year old daughter venture off with her 14 year old friend at Whistler when we were there over Christmas, and had no concerns. If she'd been alone I would just have worried that she'd end up at Whistler village by mistake at the end of the day (we were staying in Creekside) and we'd have to drive over and pick her up :-)

She also skiied by herself at Sun Valley when I got tired of mogul runs this year (too many runs down Lefty's and Upper Holiday for my knees).

But if he doesn't want to ski by himself, that's fine too. There were definitely days when my daughter still wanted to "ski with dad" this winter, which was nice because I'm sure that won't last much longer :-)

Don't beat yourself up over it. Sounds like he had a great trip and a fun time skiing both with you and in the classes.

Maybe next time get a private instructor for the two of you, then if he and the instructor hit it off they can ski together on harder runs part of the time while you take it easy or quit early and have a beer at the base :-)

Bob
post #23 of 25
Thread Starter 

Hi Thanks all for your valuable input.  Much appreciated.  From reading all your responses, the general idea I gather is, will be ok to allow him to ski alone if it is a smaller resort or a resort we've been to.  It would not be ok if it is a big resort like WB or a new place.  

 

I am less concerned about he got lost because he has excellent sense of direction and loves reading maps, by the end of our WB trip, he remembers all areas, chair lifts and trials at WB by heart. 

 

I am more concerned about he may get hit by an out of controlled skier or snowboarder.  If I am not with him, what to do?  He did say sometimes people just flew by him and he got a bit scared by that...  What to do if it is a white out situation?  I've heard about tree will but don't know how to spot or avoid it myself...  


@crgildart: We did carry cell phone, walkie talkie and whistle.  It turns out walkie talkie was the most useful of all because cell phone receptions can be bad, plus his phone is international roaming...  We got separated few times and walkie talkie saved us....! 

 

@KingGrump : yes, I'd like to think he's bought up quite all right.  He is level headed and more cautious than me.  On our last day, he proposed we should hit some black runs. I reluctantly said ok.  Then he added: "But if it turns foggy or icy, then we won't do the blacks. We will stick w/ the greens." 

 

@raytseng: This is a good idea. I did not think about that actually.   So I can take my time and he can maximize his time.  I think his 1 turn = my 5 turns.  The time it takes him to make 2 runs, I can comfortably do 1.  

 

@albertanskigirl : I don't think my nephew will ski off piste or tree skiing (but he did like the "Enchanted Forrest" at Whistler).  He is not "wild".  Like I said, I only concerned that he may get hit by someone.

 

On a different note, I came across this week long ski program at Jackson Hole for teens, it seems very interesting and I wish my nephew could sign up for it.  The program covers not only skills, but also education materials about mountain survival, rescue, etc.  The only problem is, the time they are offering does not coincide w/ his school breaks.  Plus it is a hassle to apply for u.s. tourist visa.  I am sure he'd love to do the course if the timing is right...  

 

Thanks again! 

post #24 of 25
Yes. At wb I will recommend again that he can take the glacier tour or other tour with the mountain volunteers. It is very safe and he get to see an area where one may not feel comfortable exploring for the first time by yourself.

It is completely free,although you may donate some money at the end which when I went goes to the avalanche rescue dogs.
post #25 of 25
No one even adults should really be skiing off piste runs alone in a place like WB

We live in Lake Placid and around 10 we let our son ski by himself but not in the trees. At 13 he skis all day with his friends wherever they want to at our home Mt Whiteface
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