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How old should kids be to ski by themselves?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
My 10 year old son has been skiing for about three years. This year we let him go off with a buddy or two (same age)for a few hours at a time. He was told he had to stay in a specific area. He is very responsible and knows the mountain better than I do. On one occassion (the last - we suspended this experiment for the time being)he was skiing with his cousins and one of them took a big fall. Unfortunately ( I will explain later) a ski patroler was seconds behind her. She was startled, couldn't breathe and her back hurt. The ski patroler immobilized her and put her in the red sled. I was at home (1/2 mile away) at the time so the ski patrol brought my son to the house and told me what happened. Besides being frieghtened for my niece I was waiting for child welfare to take me away in cuffs. Fortunately, the ski patrol guys could not have been nicer. We had to take my niece to the hospital for xrays. Thankfully, She was fine. Had the ski patrol not been right there I think she would have gotten up and kept skiing. I do not think the patroler had an option and he proceeded according to the protocol. My son handled the whole situation perfectly but I felt awful that they were left in that position.

Is 10 too young? When is it ok to let your kids go off by themselves? Do the "pros" have a different take from the "dads"?
post #2 of 23
Not sure about what age but here’s one patroller’s list of resources that the kid should have before being cut loose on his own:
A known rendezvous location and time
A backup rendezvous location and time
Knows how to find ski patrol
Knows your responsibility code
A solid idea of the run location and where he is supposed to be
A bracelet or dog tag with a phone number for emergency contact (a number with somebody there)
If he’s not there with a parent, the first and last name of his chaperone.

Doesn’t matter if the kid is 10 or 17....
[img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #3 of 23
My daughter is nine and we have skied at our home mountain (Sugarloaf) enough that I am confident she won't get lost or in an area above her head. I have just recently felt OK about her sometimes skiing back to the condo by herself and I'll finish the day by myself. From the lifts/base it is an easy and short stretch to where we generally stay. I don't think I'd be comfortable yet in the reverse situation -- me off the slopes in the room with her still on mountain. Not so much worried about abduction or anything like that up here, but I wouldn't want her to get in an accident without me close by. I know families that don't think twice about letting their pre-teens ski by themselves, though. I'll probably feel the same way in a couple of years. Longer, on an unfamiliar mountain.
post #4 of 23
This is a great question and I am anxious for more feedback as I have struggled with the same question. I have a 11.5 y.o. daughter who skis as well as I do. On our home mountain I allow her and friends to ski alone in given areas for set lengths of time before check in at set time and location, usually 1 to 2 hours on our small mountain. She knows what to do and is the one in the group that sets the others straight and keeps them in line. Most of the lifties know us and she knows the mountain well but I am concerned about that freak serious accident that might occur. I am assuming that by next season I should be able to turn her loose on home mountain when skiing with others.
post #5 of 23
It really depends on the size of the resort. I live on a small hill and I was skiing alone by age 6. but there are a lot of crazy people out there these days so ya never know.
post #6 of 23
Thread Starter 
as clarification, my wife and my sister-in law were on the mountain. The only reason I was home was due to a broken leg which was one of the reasons rhey were skiing alone(another post perhaps). My son has all of the name rank and serial info in his jacket.
post #7 of 23
Interesting question -- especially after I had ski patrol greet me by name outside the first aid station last year after daughter no. 2 (8 yrs old then) failed to show at our rendezvous point. An awful, sinking feeling, especially having to explain it to my non-skiing wife. 25 stitches later (on my daughter, that is) everyone was fine.

So how old? I don't know -- but it depends more on child's skill and responsibility level than calendar age. Was it a mistake at 8? Probably so, but that was a function of her skill level. Also lousy conditions -- she hit a dirt patch in thin snow in March -- more bad judgment on my part to take kids out in that. At least she had the presence of mind to get help herself, but only after getting herself back up and skiing two more runs before noticing the blood through her ski pants.

And yet, this year I let her ski free with her twin brother, 12-yr old sister and their friends on the small areas we ski. With more precautions than last year. And a lot more skills ... after @10 days skiing over this winter, with lessons on 4 days, the instructors put the girls at level 6 or 7, and the boy is at level 5.

Same precautions generally as previous posters though I don't have the dog tags/bracelets. That's a great idea Tanglefoot, any clue where to get them?

Other precautions/routines that we use:
-- Buddy system. "Skiing on your own" means skiing without a grownup -- but kids have to stick together in pairs.
-- Depending on conditions and terrain, definite limits. Usually no grownups, no black diamonds. That will change over time.
-- FRS radios. Yeah, they're annoying, especially when kids misuse them. But, after another incident earlier this year, I wouldn't take a family group skiing without them. Same daughter knocked her wind out and twisted up in a fall where bindings did not release, right in front of a ski patroller (just like the post that started this all...), so he put her in a sled and we went way offsite for X-rays. I had no way to communicate real time with the other two kids who were then REALLY left alone skiing, I was away for hours. An added benefit to these radios is even if you're not w/the kids, you can overhear their chatter and have a general sense where they are, how they're doing.

Separate from these details -- why let them ski alone at this age?

First, we like to ski together, but after a while, it's not fun. And if it isn't fun, they're not going to like skiing, which is the whole point here.

Second, they don't get much freedom in their life -- very little goofing off, hanging out at the playground after school, taking off at 9 a.m. on a Saturday on bikes and coming home for dinner. Seems like more of that when I was a kid, but not possible for my kids, and many others, these days. So, if they can run free for half a day at a little 100-acre ski area, ride the lifts, buy candy bars, that's a good thing. And in the process, they use their own judgment instead of asking me what's OK all the time.
post #8 of 23
Yeah, I was 6 when I started trying to lose my parents when they lagged behind, but that was on a relatively small hill and it was impossible to get lost.
post #9 of 23
My daughter (14) has seen enough accidents and had enough bad falls to take skiing seriously, so that I could let her go ahead and ski on her own.

She and have a "procedure" of sorts that whenever we see an accident and there is no ski patrol yet, she stays with the victim(s) and I go get the ski patrol - or vice versa. She knows how to set up skis uphill of the victim, how to do the first pre-patrol assessment and aid; I even explained to her how to do CPR (I hope she never has to administer that!). If it is a really bad accident, then I stay and she goes.

She skis about as well as I do, but not as daredevil-ish, which is good. I always insist that she have a FRS radio with her, while I have the other unit.

Now I want her to ski a little on her own, explore the mountain - but she doesn't want to. She would rather spend some time taking a pause in the lodge while I am skiing.

Frankly, I don't insist.

I think kids can ski on their own as soon as they are visible, have a FRS radio - and know how to use it, wear a helmet, and know what to do if they:
- get lost
- lose a ski
- get thirsty, hungry, etc.
- need to contact a parent / chaperone.
- see - or are invovled in - an accident.
post #10 of 23
My daughter has skied without adults since she was about 11 at Smugglers Notch and about 8 on a real small local mountain. She had a walkie-talkie so she could contact us and the kids in the group also knew how to use it. The kids were to ski where the lowest level kid is comfortable. There was also a set place where they would meet if they got separated.

We also pointed out where ski patrol is and what kind of jackets they're wearing. We told the kids that if anyone bothered them they were to go straight to the ski patrol building. A note with parents names and phone numbers is inside a jacket pocket.

Telling her to go to ski patrol for help was a lifesaver when someone ran into my husband when we were following our kid. She didn't see the accident and skied ahead. I had to ski down for help and it was a relief to see her standing next to a patroller and not wondering around by herself at 6 yrs old.
post #11 of 23
Quote:
Originally posted by ts01:
...why let them ski alone at this age?

First, we like to ski together, but after a while, it's not fun. And if it isn't fun, they're not going to like skiing, which is the whole point here.

Second, they don't get much freedom in their life -- very little goofing off, hanging out at the playground after school, taking off at 9 a.m. on a Saturday on bikes and coming home for dinner. Seems like more of that when I was a kid, but not possible for my kids, and many others, these days. So, if they can run free for half a day at a little 100-acre ski area, ride the lifts, buy candy bars, that's a good thing. And in the process, they use their own judgment instead of asking me what's OK all the time.
Amen ts01 [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

I know there will come a day when my kids will blow me into the weeds, but I also know it won't be tomorrow. As my children have gotten a little older - 8 year old son & 10 year old daughter - and their skiing skills have improved I am having more fun skiing with them; though, I'd be less than truthful if I didn't admit to wanting to go tear it up by myself once in a while.

My wife works at our home resort, so my kids can be identified by their seasons passes. We have established a few ground rules for them when skiing without an adult:

</font>
  • Stay together, no exceptions.</font>
  • No Black Diamonds</font>
  • All of us carry a GMRS/FRS radio</font>
  • Specified meeting times and locations</font>
I was very happy to see this thread because my wife and I have talked about this quite a bit. We think it's good for the kids to get out by themselves, but we're not prepared to cut them loose and meet up at the end of the day just yet.
I remember the things I used to do and the places I used to go as a young boy and I can't see letting my children do half of what I used to do. Times have changed, no question. But, in the end the ski resort still seems like a relatively safe environment to let our children run free and have a great time doing it. OK, I just reread the "relatively safe environment" part and laughed when I thought about the inherent risks in skiing and snowboarding.

Thanks for topic.

IG
post #12 of 23
I've got to start by saying that the previous contributors to this thread have been astonishingly consistent in their recommendations, and obviously a very fine bunch of parents. Good on ya!

I handle the issue of my 10 y.o. daughter's freedom at ski areas essentially the same as the rest of you - seriously: FRS radios, ID, limits, standard procedures, more freedom at our home hill than when away, etc.

I "sort-of" let her ski the greens by herself on our home hill at 8 y.o., but shadowed her and kept in radio contact until I was very confident of what she would do on her own, how she would interact with older people on the lift, would she adhere to the preset limits, etc. I have given her incrementally more freedom each year, and now she has my permission to ski anywhere on our home mtn by herself (including the blacks). Fortunately, she has thusfar never abused this freedom or run into any problems because of it.

I have taught her that she needs to be responsible and helpful to others, and that some situations are very serious. Just like AlexG's family, we have a procedure if we/she sees an accident, and have unfortunately had to use it a couple of times. If she sees another kid that needs help, she knows to offer it. Occasionally, she helps adults, and thusfar, has not once been told to "buzz off, kid".

Numerous times, she has guided wayward "little" kids safely down the mtn (to the patrol), and even helped whole families by showing them the trail back to their condos, the rental building, etc. There seems to be nothing better for her self-confidence (and sense of responsibility) than me saying, "Would you show this nice family the way back to xxx."

Finally, I think Ts01's last paragraph is right on the mark: These days, kids don't get as much chance to run around on their own as much as when we were kids, and I think the relatively controlled environment of (small mtn) skiing is a great way to let them experience this.

Tom / PM

[ March 06, 2003, 11:04 PM: Message edited by: PhysicsMan ]
post #13 of 23
Great reading, thanks to all.
I haven't started to face the issue yet, every time we go skiing we still ski toghether as a family, or, alternatively, the kids
are under an instructor's protective wing...
This and last season, I gradually lenghtened the virtual leash,
letting them ski "alone" on a run, while I -hawkish-style- controlled everything from high above...
Still, the day will come when the leash will be unleashed...
I'm saving this thread, for future reference and discussion at home.
post #14 of 23
Based on the replies I guess it is safe to conclude that very few of us perceive a great danger from other people, but rather limited to the inherent risks of skiing itself. Is this limited to local hills, or do people feel that ski areas in general are safer places for children to roam beyond the range of our protective radar screens? Would you let your young teen ski without you at a large and relatively unfamiliar destination resort? Or only after a period of getting aquainted with the mountain?
post #15 of 23
We ski at a small area but my (9) nine year is a good skier and camps out in the bump runs. If I have a lesson or have to go in and he wants to keep skiing I am ok with letting him make laps off of a specific lift where I can catch up with him. However, that happens rarely because he wants to hang with Dad and show me how he can rip it up and that's OK with me!

ED
post #16 of 23
I have 8 & 11 yr old daughters that are good skiers. They can ski together or with another buddy as long as they stick to one or two runs served by one chair, at ski hills they know well. They both have radios, but rarely need to use them. We (parents) are never far away. They have a blast!
post #17 of 23
Great comments all. Wish more people put this kind of thought into it. I just thought of a better idea than dog tags and bracelets – Phone numbers and addresses change depending on if you are traveling, who may be home etc. A luggage tag is more flexible. You can put your cell or grandma’s number on it, hotel or condo information if you are traveling etc.

The thought is if the kid ends up in the patrol room, we need to contact you right away to coordinate off the hill transportation, release of the child to a chaperone and the like.
post #18 of 23
Followups:
1 - specifically -- what SHOULD a kid (or adult) do if they've lost a ski? (Don't know this myself as my time on the slopes started just when the kids started @2 yrs ago; I'm trying to stay one step ahead of them.)

2 -- generally -- it goes w/o saying, but perhaps I should say this b/c I know there are lots of patrollers / instructors on this board; THANKS to the committed folks who make this possible. Almost universally, ski patrol and instructors have proven intelligent, quick, caring allies to me as a parent who's new to the sport and needs occasional support handling multiple kids on the mountain. Remarkably, they treat my kids as people, not problems. My wife and I have a shorthand classification of other adults in regard to competence and quality of dealing with kids -- they're either part of the problem or part of the solution. And ski patrollers and instructors are remarkably part of the solution. I know that's their "job", but they do it remakabley well as a group, which makes it possible for us to give kids this experience.

3 - generally - really appreciate the feedback and additional suggestions above.

4 - to epicski admin if monitoring - recently there was a discussion thread whether it would be a good idea to start a new forum for parents or family skiing issues -- seems like this thread proves out there's demand and a fairly good flow of information.
post #19 of 23
Quote:
Originally posted by Tanglefoot:
A known rendezvous location and time
A backup rendezvous location and time
Knows how to find ski patrol
Knows your responsibility code
A solid idea of the run location and where he is supposed to be
A bracelet or dog tag with a phone number for emergency contact.
If he’s not there with a parent, the first and last name of his chaperone.

Doesn’t matter if the kid is 10 or 17....
[img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img] [/QB]
I agree with all thats said. Tanglefoots list is excellent.

With the above list pretty well taken care of I let my just turned 9 year old ski runs on a particular lift by himself this past Oz winter. We where skiing together at the pace of his 6 year old brother. Big brother was very patient BUT he wanted to SKI. Okay off you go Jack, go over the meeting place and emergency list again and off he goes. Fine, okay time to meet some friends at the base (small hill) and no Jack. Okay do not panic. Now the trouble with Oz skiing is that it is very easy to follow tracks into trees and get in serious trouble in a steep\deep drainage. This I have told both kids "graphically" numerous times. So we go to the base meeting place and wait for Jack to show. oh oh waiting, waiting, 10 mins past the agreed time and up skis Jack. Where ya been boy? Seems he skied down a different way (easy to do) and ended up at a familiar chairlift, which he then took to the top and headed down another run to a surface lift he could see (he though it was the one he left) on the edge of the resort. Realising his error, he had the gumption to ask his way back to the meeting place from the lifty at the top, stop at another lift on the way back for more directions and then spotted the meeting place. Proud Dad, but now a little more wary.

Planning and really knowing your kid forms the basis of our parental actions. Remember Jack flew Sydney - LA and back by himself 6 months before. Now there is no way his little brother will ski alone until probably mid teens. Why, different kid, more needs and not so much "inner independence". I am constantly amazed how responsible kids are if allowed to be.

So as Tanglefoost says "Doesn’t matter if the kid is 10 or 17...."

Oz [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #20 of 23
I let my teen ski with other kids on a mountain I'm not familiar with, but she's an excellent skier and so are her friends and the kids decide what trails they're skiing before they go. To be honest, I'm more worried about her in the lodge then I am on the slope.

My problem is on family trips she wants to ski higher-level terrain then I can handle so I solve that by (gulp) paying for a private lesson and ask the instructor to escort her on the trails she wishes to try. She gets to ski the double diamonds, I get peace of mind knowing she's with someone.

As Oz's kids show, you need to prepare your kids to ski alone, just like they know what to do incase of a fire. Jack is obviously very resourceful, but also note that Oz went over the meeting place and emergency list. Jack had the info he needed and was able to put it to use.

One more thing, I also make sure my kid has a couple of dollars in her pocket for food and a ski lock for obvious reasons.
post #21 of 23
As a race team parent from Okemo, my son and team mates would go off by themselfs as early as age 8 and 9. I know of other siblings of race kids who have been on there own since age 6 or 7, But remember these are kids that grow up on skis and parents who know each other and others kids. Even though there are over 200 kids in the race program we all watch out for each others kids when a parent is not around. You can always tell a racer.

We have learned the one way to find them is not to give them enough money for lunch. My son has found me in the trees when he needed lunch money.

Before race team my son, as a three to eight y/o would ski with me or family. Once on the team he improved so quickly there was no keeping up with him. Now as a 15 y/o he's a junior insturctor, he will ski with myself and my friends until he sees someone else he'd rather ski with.
post #22 of 23
smithby, I also have a 15 yr old racer and she's been able to leave me in the dust for years. Yes, lunch money is a powerful weapon. I got my daughter to pose for a picture in exchange for lunch money and normally she'd do anything but that.
post #23 of 23
>...My son has found me in the trees when he needed lunch money.

LOL!!! You obviously know the drill.

Tom / PM
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