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CO - toddler friendly lifts.....

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
ok so i search around this board and the web quite a bit in an attempt to find some of the best CO resorts close to denver that cater to families and that have strong ski schools for little ones - tons of great info to be found on this board!.

Mine will be 5 and 6 yrs old next season and i am concerned when they are in ski school of riding lifts. We have narrowed it down to winter park, copper, breck, or vail - based on a number of factors. Does anyone have first hand knowledge of beginner lifts that are closer to the ground, additional surface lifts other than magic carpets (they will be progressed past these next season) or strict policies matching instructors 1 to 1 with toddlers on lifts? we have no intention of having our 5 and 6 yr olds being handed off to random adults riding lifts.....it only takes a split second for a child to slip off or fall....

thanks
post #2 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by sclancypb View Post
ok so i search around this board and the web quite a bit in an attempt to find some of the best CO resorts close to denver that cater to families and that have strong ski schools for little ones - tons of great info to be found on this board!.

Mine will be 5 and 6 yrs old next season and i am concerned when they are in ski school of riding lifts. We have narrowed it down to winter park, copper, breck, or vail - based on a number of factors. Does anyone have first hand knowledge of beginner lifts that are closer to the ground, additional surface lifts other than magic carpets (they will be progressed past these next season) or strict policies matching instructors 1 to 1 with toddlers on lifts? we have no intention of having our 5 and 6 yr olds being handed off to random adults riding lifts.....it only takes a split second for a child to slip off or fall....

thanks
My 5 YO can ski and ride every lift and every run at Copper, Vail, A-Basin...I taught her myself...she has never come close to falling off a lift.
post #3 of 26
Snowmass does a fantastic job of working with kids on the Village express.

I'll post some video (if I can find it) of the way the lift ops work at the base of this chair.

Also they have the little gondola sky cap (skittles) for the little ones as well.

DC
post #4 of 26
Thread Starter 
sorry but a 5 yr old has no appreciation for safety on a lift and/or falling off. i sincerely hope that you ride with your child every time and do not forget that it takes but a moment for an accident to happen.
post #5 of 26
I agree with your concerns. One of my scariest ski moments recently was being one of those "random adults". An instructor asked us to ride up with two of his students. The one next to me was maybe 5 years old, small enough to fit under the bar, and had maybe four inches of his bottom on the seat. I pronounced "no squirming" and grabbed ahold of him half way up, and I was still terrified.
post #6 of 26
Chairlifts are high off the ground because they need to be able to clear the potential snow accumulation (and the riders on the snow). I've never encountered a "low" chairlift--even for beginners. Even if you could find one, your kids will outgrow it in a hurry. My 3 year old is already pretty done with Molly Hogan at A-Basin. She'll ski it if her friends are there, but given the choice, she wants to ride "the big lift" (Exhibition) for longer and more interesting runs.

I definitely understand your fears--having them myself, but small children don't seem to fall off chairlifts any more than adults do. The lift operators do a good job getting them on the lift and the kids do the rest. Like us big kids, the little ones have a vested interest in staying on the chair until they get to the top and they tend to hold on pretty tight. My guess is that this is out of instinct--which is a much better motivator than understanding.

Talk to the ski school directors--they should be able to help allay your fears somewhat.

All of that said, I still pretend not to hear my daughter when she tells me to quit holding onto her and I'll still make my 2 year old wear a kid lift, even though he's about done needing the straps. And I do feel a twinge of anxiety on those days when my "mountain kid" heads out onto the hill with her Kinderhut class.

And then I remind myself that its just going to get worse when they discover the terrain park or start launching cliffs and I wonder what was going through Pepi Stiegler's mind when his daughter dropped Corbett's at the age of 9...
post #7 of 26
Breck has some nice lifts for kids. We ski at all the mountains in Summit county, but I thought Breck's lifts were the nicest.

They have magic carpets, Poma at Peak 9, very slow moving 6 person chair at peak 9. At peak 8, they have a 2 person beginner chair with a magic carpet built-in at the loading area. So the speed of the lift when getting on, is very slow.
post #8 of 26
I wouldn't be surprised if you 6-year-old is going to be way past anything serviced by a magic carpet anyway.

WinterPark has a nice area for beginners. I don't think the lift is very high and it sure isn't very long. I would say it would be prudent to ride that a few times WITH them and talk about how important it is and how far down it is, what could happen if they screw around on the lift, etc.

There's also a small lift above where they group up for lessons that is short and sweet and probably not too high either. As for the lifts I feel very comfortable taking all 3 of my kids/nephews on a lift all by myself. They were 5, 6, and 6. Yes you have to keep an eye on them but they were very lift safety concious. Probably because they've been skiing for 3 years and we've had "the talk".

My oldest also took a lesson last year at WinterPark and had a GREAT experience. She was 5 at the time. We went on a Monday and she had only one other kid in her class which was perfect!

Your other option is to find a program that runs a gondola. Much safer than just the lift. I know Keystone has one but know nothing about their kids programs.
post #9 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by UGASkiDawg View Post
My 5 YO can ski and ride every lift and every run at Copper, Vail, A-Basin...I taught her myself...she has never come close to falling off a lift.
Your 5 year old can ski every run at all three of these resorts? If so, can I schedule some instruction time with you?
post #10 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by sclancypb View Post
sorry but a 5 yr old has no appreciation for safety on a lift and/or falling off. i sincerely hope that you ride with your child every time and do not forget that it takes but a moment for an accident to happen.
I beg to differ....kids understand falling. I ski with my kid all the time so of course she is riding with me but I am not particularly concerned about her falling off once we are loaded. She does need help getting on the lift but either I do that or the liftie will gladly help.
post #11 of 26
1 point that hasn't been mentioned - detachables are a hell of a lot easier for the little ones than fixed grips...
post #12 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by dchan View Post
Snowmass does a fantastic job of working with kids on the Village express.

I'll post some video (if I can find it) of the way the lift ops work at the base of this chair.

Also they have the little gondola sky cap (skittles) for the little ones as well.

DC
I just got back. I've never seen lift attendants work so hard, yet look like they are having so much fun.

At my local hills, you can barely tell if they are awake.

Can't wait to go back.
post #13 of 26
Buttermilk also does a really good job with the ankle biters.
post #14 of 26
Try Keystone out of River Run. The gondola takes them to the top of the mountain where there is a carpet and a low, slow dedicated beginners chair. They can learn the ropes of lift riding in a very controlled environment.

Be warned, 5 and 6 yo kids with any physical skill at all will spend only a day or two on the beginners hill, after that they will be ready and insistant that they ski the mountain and they will have to ride the "big" lifts to do so. Every parent wants their kids to ride with the instructor. Group lessons just don't work that way. The weakest students, at the beginner level, will get that attention, and rightly so. The only way to insure that your kids are not with a random adult in a lesson lift ride is to buy a private lesson.

While this may be your first rodeo, it is not new to the instructors, lifties, and the area who load hundreds of thousands of little butts every year. If your kids are well behaved and listen and respect adults they will be just fine.
post #15 of 26
First, while the ski resorts you list have good ski schools, if you want the most beginner/family friendly area, go to Beaver Creek. Lots of greens and blues, great instructors, and the lift attendants even brush the snow off the seats for you.

If you are really concerned about your kids on lifts, you'll need to hire a private instructor for your kids. Alternatively, you can shadow your child's class all day and ride the lifts with them. The instructor may not be pleased with you as it may be distracting to your child and the other kids to have you tagging along all day. Hint, if you go this route, tip well. $$$

At 5 and 6, your kids will be handed off to random adults to ride the lifts (unless perhaps you tip the ski instructor at the beginning of the day $$$$ to ride only with your kid, and even then, I wouldn't guarantee it will happen). The resorts that you are considering have beginner lifts but your kids will likely graduate from those areas in a few days. They will move on to lifts that serve green and blue terrain. Those lift attendants are accustomed to loading ski schoolers.

At 5 and 6, your kids are not toddlers. They are capable of knowing if they are fully on the seat, and if they need help. Teach them to ask for help if they need it.

One of my sons fell off a lift at Deer Valley during ski school when he was about 7 (approx. 5 years ago). I can't recall the name of the lift but it serves mostly black terrain on the far left edge of the resort if you are looking at the trail map. Son was in a class with mostly 10 year olds so he was the short one. The lift attendant was accustomed to skiers who can ski blacks being tall enough to get on the lift. This lift was just a few inches higher than any other lift. Son was a tad too short to get his bottom fully on the seat. He knew he wasn't quite on the seat, so he slipped off to the ground at the end of the lift loading area (about 6 feet off the ground). He was fine. At the end of the day, the instructor is raving to us about how son outskies the 10 year olds. As we start to walk away, instructor says "Oh yeah, by the way, your son fell off a chair lift today." Scary for me as mom? You bet. Did I keep him out of ski school after that day? No. The terrain he skies scares me more than the lifts he rides.
post #16 of 26
words...
post #17 of 26
Okay, I'm going to weigh in on this one as a race coach for 5 and 6 year olds. I coach at Copper Mountain and I've been very impressed with the lifties ability and willingness to help there. All I do is ask them to help me load (usually me and 3 kids) and point to the kids they should help while I handle one of them. Loading is usually my biggest concern while unloading is my next. I've not in 3 years had even a close call with a fall during the ride. Occasionally once the bar is down I reassess the situation and ask a child to scoot back a bit. Usually I have enough parent helpers to get all my kids up with someone I know but there have been a couple of occasions where I was forced to use a stranger. I always look for someone skiing with older (like 10-12) year old kids who appear confident (so have likely skied for years) because the adult likely helped their own kids when they were that age. If an adult hesitates for even a second when I ask then I ask someone else as they are likely at least somewhat uncomfortable with the idea. I understand that you are scared for your child and only you can make the decision but as coaches/instructors we are pretty well trained to deal with these situations.

The only mountain where I've personally known someone who fell off was Winter Park and that is also where I also know of a child that had a scary ride up dangling by their coat due to very inattentive lifties at the bottom. :
post #18 of 26
Thread Starter 
some very good points have been made about the instinct of kids, attentive lifties, etc. i agree that you rarely hear of problems with kids falling off lifts, but i think of the precautions we now take every day with our kids and basically people are just throwing a caution to the wind. I just got back from 3 days at heavenly (no kids with me) and i made a point of watching instructors with groups on the mountain - they werent unsupervised but it was like controlled chaos. i wouldnt trust my kids in the environment in school/day care/pool/field trip etc, so it is hard to bite the bullet and allow it when we go skiing. somehow i doubt my parents struggled with this when they dropped me off at ski school 30 yrs ago....
post #19 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by UGASkiDawg View Post
I beg to differ....kids understand falling.
Agreed. As Mr. Darwin pointed out, mother nature assures that most folks, including kids, are pretty good at self preservation....
post #20 of 26
Yeah, controlled chaos is a good way to describe it. I am sure that from the outside my group looks like controlled chaos to some extent, what do you expect from a group of 13 5-6 year olds on skis who all want to debate about who they're riding up with. But, I've never had a parent tell me or my bosses that they felt like their kids were unsafe with me. Quite the contrary, I've got parents moving their kids to my mountain next year as they've watched how I handle the controlled chaos on race days and want me as their coach. That's not to say that I never have moments when they are out of control but I'm quick to correct them or discipline as needed but as coaches we also have to pick our battles when we have a large group. Sometimes we'll let something go because we know in 10 minutes we'll need to use the toughness on a more dangerous situation.

For example, this weekend I had 2 girls bickering about which position on the chair they'd ride up with. I chose to tell them just to work it out. Ten minutes later I had one of them decide that playing skier cross on the mountain would be fun and came up on another girl tucking and actually threw and elbow at the other girl. : Absolutely not allowed, not going to tolerate that kind of behavior at all and that's where the real discipline had to come out.

I know it's tough to let go, really I do. It's hard for me as a coach not to have heart palpitations the first time I let them ride up without an adult (happened with quite a few of my kids this weekend) because I really do love these guys and would be absolutely devastated if something happened. But, I also know that for them to progress into the skiers/racers they and their parents want them to be they need to learn discipline, independence, decision making etc.

My mantra with kids and parents since I started coaching is that I wouldn't ask the kids to do something (ski a run, ride a lift alone etc) if I didn't fully believe that they are capable of it. I believe that most instructors/coaches function in the same way.
post #21 of 26
Thread Starter 
copper is on our short list for next season....
post #22 of 26
Thread Starter 
i thought i would take a moment to post an update 1 year later. So we ended up at Beaver Creek last season for a week. They have a dedicated gondola for the kids. The gondola and dedicated lodges for ski school at the bottom and the top put them IMO at the top of the list for children. Over 5 days of lessons, our kids (ages 5 and 6) were constantly assessed and re-assessed - they moved classes almost every day independent of one another based on achieving various skills. we could not have been happier with the progress and the smoothness of how the program runs. the kids were disappointed when they were separated and that their "friends" each day didnt always move with them but it was great that the instructors are actively matching them up based on demonstrated skills!

following BC, the kids got another 6 days on the slopes at breck, vail and keystone with us riding the lifts. while they were great on the lifts and the lifties at all 3 mountains were very good, they still are too easily distracted while riding....yes they know falling would hurt alot but they lose focus so easily....headed to breck for a week over new years...planning on ski school for at least 3 days. no choice but to bite the bullet and let them ride the lifts with random persons selected by the instructor...honestly there has to be a middle ground between this and BC building a dedicated gondola for kids/beginners....in any event they are both wearing their ski harness/handles so at least someone has a chance of grabbing them more easily if needed....
post #23 of 26
Thanks for the follow up!   This is my #1 concern this January, as we are traveling to Ischgl Austria and our 5 yr old will be in ski school.  She participated when she was 3 in Park City, however never rode a lift!   I am a bit nervous as everything is so random....will the instructor speak good English, will she understand when they are yelling in German (she speaks little German), will they place her with helpful "random" people...the list goes on and on.   I am sure she will be fine, however I guess if I didn't worry, I'd be concerned more (lol)!

Thanks for the info!
post #24 of 26
Thread Starter 

We skied Tignes/Val D'Isere a few years ago and it seems that everyone working at european resorts is bilingual (inc. English) and often can get by in 1 or 2 add'l languages as well....I swear we are the only major nation who cannot speak anything but english....anyway I doubt language will be an issue.  I m sure kids can learn to use surface lifts more easily than adults....also i think there are many more older double chairs as opposed to easily to load detachable trips/quads.....maybe you luck out and Iscgyl has a vernicular (sp?) and/or a big tram...those would be ideal for kids....good luck!!! and have fun.

Side note - The big issue I think will be food....if you have a picky child it may be tough....Personally I would not take my kids overseas to ski - I think it would just add to the stress....Hopefully your child will view it as an adventure! Be sure to take laxatives with you for your child - their diet is not likely to be balanced while you are there and kids get stopped up quickly.....

post #25 of 26
Thanks for the info!   I agree about the surface lifts...geez I hate them as an adult!  Yep, Ischgl wasn't my choice, however her grandparents live in Austria, so we have the ability to tag on an extra weeks vacation and ski.   She is the only kid in Chicago that loves wurst and spicy mustard!  As long as we have bread and sausage, she should be fine.  But she is picky otherwise.  

Thanks again for the encouragement!
post #26 of 26
The Quicksilver 6 place chair lift at Breckenridge's Peak 9 has a low loading ramp and exit ramp.  It serves the gentle Silverthorne run. 
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