Last season, I had the privilege of teaching a Mom with a severe height phobia. This wonderful lady could make beautiful parallel turns, but was absolutely petrified by the chair lift. We started the lesson like beginners walking up and skiing down short sections before I was able to talk her onto the beginner lift which was a mind numbing 4 minutes long and max of 25 feet in height. #1 rule - eyes closed, #2 rule - firm (ok death) grip on the safety bar, #3 rule - instructor must have one arm around the shoulder and the other one holding hands (plus holds both sets of poles), #4 rule - non stop conversation, #5 rule - eyes open only when within 3 feet of getting off, #6 rule - slow the runs down to max time in between lift rides. She loved skiing, but she was physically shaking on every chair ride. She chided me for every trick I used to get her mind off the lift, but was delighted at the bottom of every run. I'm certain she did not ride the chair after the "lesson" was over.
For some the fear of heights is so strong, chairlift riding is just not going to happen. Many that are fearful can be talked into riding the chair at least once. I find it helps to admit my past fear or heights (even the expert gets afraid) and to state with authority that being in a seated position and looking at the next chair ahead minimizes the sensation of height. My last ditch argument is that fear of heights is a natural, evolution thing (people that were fearful lived - people that weren't didn't) and needs to be worked on to overcome. Chairlift riding is a wonderful way to do this because they are slow, just a few minutes long and don't get real high. (at least for beginners [img]graemlins/angel.gif[/img] )
Depending on the strength of the fear, I strongly encourage positive group feedback at the end of the first day (or even lunch) focused on her courage (if she's deathly afraid) or her skiing skills. For many, the thrill of skiing outweighs the fear of heights. For this reason, I recommend at least an hour or two of skiing on the second day. This can be a huge boost to skill development.
If Mom falls into the "no way I'm getting on the lift, PERIOD!" category, it's important to be prepared to redirect with "no problem - let's do" ... snowshoe, cross country, snowmobile, dog sled, dinner sleigh ride, etc. (all available at Breck). Other resorts have snow tubing, which is a great way to introduce the fun of sliding as a possible means of transitioning to skiing in the future. The important point is to have her give it a try. If it does not work out, there are plenty of fun things to do. Breck is such a cool place, one should not let a fear of heights deny you the mountain experience. You don't have to get on a lift to experience the mountain.