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ski school sending 4yr on lift w/o adult

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
My daughter and her best friend, both 4 years old, just finished their 4th ski lesson in the Tahoe Donner "Snowflake" program for 4-6 year olds. They did two lessons last year, followed by a day on the bunny slope practicing with us, and then two lessons a week ago. They are both pretty coordinated kids who listen well to teachers and have progressed fairly quickly to riding on the lift, and can now turn and stop easily. They both love skiing and in the afternoons we (the parents) took them out skiing again. The classes range from Ability level 1-5, and both kids were in Level 4 last time and the school says they can move up to Level 5 in the next session. According to the school, Level 5 kids need to be able to ride the lift without an instructor, and they already sent my daughter's friend up on the lift w/o an instructor or older kid. I think it's crazy, especially since the lift does not have a safety bar and they are too small to even get on the lift themselves. While waiting in line with my daughter I saw an older boy fall off the lift, although it was only a few feet off the ground at that point. We were pretty happy with the classes until this point, but I am baffled that they would send kids that young up without an adult. Reading the other thread on kids on lifts it seems like kids can and do fall off lifts, but I'm wondering if there is some sort of safety guidelines I can point to get them to revise their practices. Tahoe Donner is a pretty family friendly place to learn to ski, and obviously they've been doing some things right, but I feel that 4 (and 5), is too young to ride up on their own. Any suggestions?
post #2 of 22
Our "SOP" when dealing with groups of kids who were lift riders in that age range was to split. One instructor would go up first with a child and the lead instructor would remain at the bottom and "hustle" adult singles who would be willing to ride with a child. Only when the last kid was at the top and intercepted and accounted for, would the group proceed.
post #3 of 22
I saw you were looking for guidelines to point at to change their policy. Sorry I can't offer any.

But i wanted to comment, to perhaps relax the worried parent. (not that you shouldn't be worried) This story may give you some relief. Or it may do the opposite.

Last week we had a pretty major blizzard here in japan. Only the hard-core skiers were out. well, me and the smallest solo skier I have ever seen. (honestly)

on my approach to a chairlift I spotted a tiny girl in pink racing for the coral in a very eager pace. Her helmet was bigger than her body. She must have been 4 years old; I used to teach and am famililar wtih the size.
I was shocked when I watched her go through the coral alone. In japan, lifties don't bump chairs, and often don't even greet you. I watched this tiny-tike go through the electronic gate (which was up to her nose) half-skate her tiny legs to the chair, stand (sort of) in the loading area, climb onto an approaching chair on her side and turn herself onto her back as her feet left the ground. I would have personally helped her load if I were close enough. In fact, I hurried my pace. But after watching her successfully load, I let out an audible laugh. I then watched her get off fine too. The whole time I was the only one around. we were skiing in a washing machine of high winds and heavy snow. I was worried for her, rolling my eyes at the freedom japanese society gives to children. (I often see young children walking around train stations alone. It's quite nerve-wracking to foreigners. I still think the japanese live in a safe/no crime-induced ignorance.) Actually later that same day, I remember contemplating how dangerous the weather was. I remember thinking that if any solo skier were to get hurt, they could literally never be seen again. visibility on-piste was about two meters. Frost-bite was nigh.

Anyway, I was just doing a transfer chair to upper mountain, but this little girl was charging the lower lifts like there was no tomorrow. I was no longer cold from the winds or contemplating cutting my day short. I kicked myself hard for not having my camera. That is the last day i will go skiing alone without a camera. She half laid on her back the whole ride up, poking her pole at the top bar of the chair, knocking snow off, as if she were bored.

I also had a student fall off a chair once. actually, she just got off too early at the exit ramp and slid backwards under the chair into the safety net. got my heart going. I was one of those instructors you're now worried about.

anyway, sorry I don't have any advice. Nor, am I seeking to jack this thread, just couldn't resist sharing.
post #4 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yuki View Post
Our "SOP" when dealing with groups of kids who were lift riders in that age range was to split. One instructor would go up first with a child and the lead instructor would remain at the bottom and "hustle" adult singles who would be willing to ride with a child. Only when the last kid was at the top and intercepted and accounted for, would the group proceed.
That's the normal procedure in France too. That and the lifties are warned of the incoming kids (and thus ready to help, stop the lift etc.)
But never withour a safety bar !

(nice story samurai. somewhat disturbing too...)
post #5 of 22
My daughter was 4 last year at Alta and we insisted that she ride with an instructor and that is what happened.

FWIW, she is 5 now, and there is absolutely NO WAY I would even consider letting her ride a lift alone. The consequences of being of kid and not paying attention are just too great. If this means, we had to pay for private lessons or she could only ski with me because I couldn't afford a private lesson - this is exactly what I would do.

My daughter isn't the most cautious and may get excited, nervous, etc. and do something stupid on the lift, but even if she was the most mature 5 yr old ever, I wouldn't allow it.

Skiing is risky - I accept that risk for me and for my daughter. Riding a lift alone at such a young is a risk I'm not comfortable accepting.

Just my $.02!
post #6 of 22
I'm pretty sure that if you go to the Mad River Glen site, on page 2 there is a video of a little kid getting loaded on to the single. I have watched many times and they do a great job. Push the kid into the seat and close the bar at the same time. If you get a chance check out the vid - at the bottom of home page there is a link to 'more'

The lifties at Mad River are very present when it comes to loading and unloading the single. They slow the chair by using the long arm from the cable. They basically stop the chair by holding on just before it reaches the skier. With slightly older kids they push down on the chair, pulling the cable down allowing the kid to load without a hop. The chail lift is never slowed.

At the top the liftie handles every chair and makes sure the kid gets off safely. With adults he stops the lift from swinging. No sitting in the little house with the heat on!
post #7 of 22
post #8 of 22
At Killington they also do the "hook them up with adults" thing, all the way up to age 6
post #9 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Js137 View Post
My daughter was 4 last year at Alta and we insisted that she ride with an instructor and that is what happened
That's something we try very hard to make happen. All kids 8 and under (at least I think it's 8, but could be 7, I don't work that program very often), have to wear a vest that identifies them. When checking into the program, the parents are generally asked, esp for the little tikes, if they can ride alone or with an adult. This is generally an instructor or an instructor assistant, but if the need arises could be a WILLING member of the skiing public. Most of the time it's no trouble to find a nice person willing to help out. I don't think there is an upper age limit on the "red stripe". (I know I had a young lady in a class a few years back who was about 9,10 or 11. She had Downs syndrome and she had a "red stripe". (On a side note, she was a super kid, and I made her my "Instructors assistant" for the lesson. She loved the authority. It was great.)

Now with that being said, even at a young age, I've seen very accomplished lift riders that I would have no trouble recommending that they be able to ride in a chair with a buddy. Conversely, I've also seen older kids that I WOULDN'T feel comfortable letting them ride alone (as an kid/adult with ADD, I'm sure my instructors might have put me in the same boat! ). Most kids have a pretty good sense of "danger" and once in the chair and seated, the chances of them falling out are small. Then again, the chances of winning the lotto are small, and people hit that everyday. By far and away, the biggest "risk" to being injured by your chair ride are not getting into the seat in the first place. I know at Alta the lift operators are VERY good about making sure our smallest riders are in the chairs and in safely. All it takes, for any guest not just ski school, is to ask the folks in the purple coats for a boost or a slow down, or both. They will be more than happy to help. I guess what I'm saying is every kid is different, and some 4 year olds could handle it just fine with some 8 year olds couldn't. When in doubt, request of the ski school that your kid ride with an instructor or an adult....

Edit: Even I we recommend that a child is able to safely ride alone (this would be at the end of the lesson when we give out "report cards"), and the parents say no to that (for example the next day when they come to check in they still want them to be a "red stripe"), we honor the wishes of the parent (duh! ). If they are checked in as red stripes, they stay red stripes all day, unless the parents were to come in and change things. I've never seen that happen (the parents changing away from the "red stripe" in the middle of the day). I have, however, seen the reverse. I have seen kids checked in as non-red stripes that the instructor feels needs one for say the afternoon session.
post #10 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yuki View Post
Our "SOP" when dealing with groups of kids who were lift riders in that age range was to split. One instructor would go up first with a child and the lead instructor would remain at the bottom and "hustle" adult singles who would be willing to ride with a child. Only when the last kid was at the top and intercepted and accounted for, would the group proceed.
That's the way we do it. I don't feel comfortable having children that young on the lifts alone. Depending on their level usually I'll let them go together at 6-7 y.o.
post #11 of 22
I am the coordinator for a ski program for a local church school. Of course the kids in our group are 5 yo and older, but I must say, I am some times more excited about a kid riding the lift alone than if they ride with friends.
Alone, the kid is more concious of the surroundings. With a friend, they tend to horse play a bit more.

Now, about a 4 year old.........The two 5 year olds I had in my program HAD to have an adult, just because of size alone. It was nearly impossible for the kids to get on the chair without an adult boosting them up a bit.
I could not imagine the 5 year olds in my group being able to ride without adult assistance. Now, while on the lift, I trus the 5 year olds more than the 7 or 8 year olds. At least the 5 year olds "resepct" the height of the chair. By the time they are 7 or 8, they forget the fear.

As for your instruction, you're the parent, tell them your wishes and deal with the outcome if they can't implement it in their program.
post #12 of 22
This is a judgement call that depends on so many things. Was it a specialty beginner lift where the lifties are used to working with kids? Does the lift go high or stay fairly close to the ground so the child is not going to be frightened? Did she ride that lift before? She was a level 4+ and probably knew what to do and demonstrated her ability to do so before being put on the lift. She is as you described cooperative and follows directions. The instructor having had the student for three prior lessons knew that. How is one instructor with eight kids (typical class size) supposed to ride the lift with each of them? There comes a point where the kids will have to ride alone unless you are with them or it's a private lesson. I also think it is probably better to have a kid alone on the lift than with a buddy, but that too is a call based on personality and behavior. They can't pay people to do nothing but ride the lift all day and sometimes an adult stranger just isn't available. Personally, i'd rather have seen my then very responsible four-year-old on the lift by himself than with a rank beginner skier/teenager i didn't know. Think about getting off the lift with an adult that barely knows how themselves. Anyhow, not knowing the circumstances, it's hard to say if it was a bad move or not. But since you clearly were not comfortable with it, I suggest a private lesson from now on or else offer to tag along to ride the lift with your child.
post #13 of 22
As a patroller and a parent, the additional risk I see is if the lift stops for an extended period. This is made worse if it's a long lift where chairs are out of sight of top and bottom stations, if the weather is windy, cold or snowy. The child will get chilled and/or frightened more quickly. The child won't know stoppages are normal, and may be tempted to jump. In the event of an evacuation, they may not be able to follow instructions, or may be too scared to get onto the evac seat. In addition, an evac may drop them into unfamiliar and difficult terrain. Unless they're very responsible, well-taught, and experienced, even 7 or 8 can be too young.
post #14 of 22
: Wow. I hadn't even entertained the thought of my daughter (she'll be 6 in February) doing the lift on her own. I still have her in a death grip when we're on it. Heck... for that matter she's still in a car seat.
post #15 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by marge View Post
: Wow. I hadn't even entertained the thought of my daughter (she'll be 6 in February) doing the lift on her own. I still have her in a death grip when we're on it. Heck... for that matter she's still in a car seat.

My champ will be 8 in 2 weeks, and we did give up the chairseat about 2 yrs. ago, still use a slight death grip. But NEVER, EVER will we allow him on a lift without one of us, an instructor or an adult "hustled" by an instructor (not my best choice...). Maybe we're over-protective, but that's that for the time being. We'll see when he's 10. Maybe
post #16 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gpaul View Post
Maybe we're over-protective
Barring some other issue, I think you are at least acting that way.

Each of my kids have been riding lifts solo -- truly solo, without other kids -- since age 5. We and their coaches have drilled lift safety into them from an early age.

The most dangerous situation, IMHO, is a chair with multiple five or six year olds. But one, well-trained one who is tall enough to get on and off competently can do the job.
post #17 of 22
Whitehorn2 .... Your post is right on the money. I was just getting ready to address high wind and lift stops and long delays.

When you listen to what was going through the kids minds (9 year old race kids) .... it can get pretty scary. One of our coaches used to do the "chair bail" if the lift stopped too long leaving the kids .... who would then get the idea that if "Coach Rob" can jump, we can too. :

Icy seat and windy day .... I also brace the little ones in using my poles across the seat and one hand is poised behind them for the collar grab.

They squirm and fiddle and fidget and forget that they are 40' in the air.
post #18 of 22
Jane is 5 and perfectly capable of getting on, riding and getting off just about anything without me - but it remains clear that the reason I don't want her doing that alone is ...wait for it...

MY PROBLEM, not hers - but still, I'm bigger, so I win. nyeh,nyeh,nyehhh.

The poma lift is fine btw and there should be more of them imho in the Union Creek/beginners areas at Copper.
post #19 of 22
I hate to bump an old thread but I felt I should share. I started taking multiweek group lessons when I was five. At the time with 7-8 students and 1 instructor made it impossible for me to ride up a lift with an adult at all times. most lifts at my area dont have safety bars and the 2 that do never got used. By 8 years old I realized that I loved skiing and had my parents drop me off in snohomish where I would ride for 45 minutes on a community transit bus to sultan where I would transfer to a ski shuttle up to the mounain. I would then ski all day and return home to my parents in sultan, I did this atleast 5 times when I was 8 yo. Parents these days are too overprotective
post #20 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilT View Post
I hate to bump an old thread but I felt I should share. I started taking multiweek group lessons when I was five. At the time with 7-8 students and 1 instructor made it impossible for me to ride up a lift with an adult at all times. most lifts at my area dont have safety bars and the 2 that do never got used. By 8 years old I realized that I loved skiing and had my parents drop me off in snohomish where I would ride for 45 minutes on a community transit bus to sultan where I would transfer to a ski shuttle up to the mounain. I would then ski all day and return home to my parents in sultan, I did this atleast 5 times when I was 8 yo. Parents these days are too overprotective
I am envious of your early ski/yearly days on the hill.
as mentioned before, kids in japan around five or six will ride trains in japan alone. Shinjuku station is the busiest in the world. it is shocking that parents let this occur. Parents are not protective enough in my mind here in japan.

I'm not looking to argue with you, just wanted to show a contrast of cultures. it's the little things people often find interesting... (sorry for repeating myself)
post #21 of 22
i utilized public transportation at that age too. Yes there are some bad things that could happen out there but its not worth hiding your kids away from the world to save them from the few bads
post #22 of 22
I think letting your kids ride alone is fine. Are you going to let them on a chair in high winds? No. Are you going to have them out on the mountain in dangerously cold temps? No. So those fear arguments are sort of moot. Are kids afraid of being 40' in the air on a chair lift? Probably, if the their parents have been telling them for umpteen years how high it is up there and do they have any idea what will happen if something goes wrong?

My take (and my job as a parent) is to teach your child self-reliance, self-confidence and a respect for what they are tasked to do.

But, this thing goes back to long before the kids are at an age where it's time to ride the chair. You start this process from the very beginning.

Our daughter, now 7, continues to ride the chair both alone, and with us.

If she were 4, I'd ask her if she wanted to ride alone. If she said yes, I'd say, "Great, I thought you did. Let's go up a few times together and you show me how you do it. Then you'll be good to go."

I want her to grow up in a world of endless possibilities, not a world of fear and trepedation. And I want that voice in her head to always be saying, "Heck ya, I can do this!"
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