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Are ski lifts dangerous for kids?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Article from Today's Tribune: Recreation » Two recent falls prod safety reminders.

By Ben Fulton

The Salt Lake Tribune


 

In those days, few resort chairlifts came with restraint bars.

Now that he's a parent, and now that most ski runs offer them, Holmes said he makes a point of using the restraint for his son.

Standing at the base of Snowbird Ski & Summer resort's "Mid-Gad" lift while his 5-year-old son Dylan fidgets, Holmes said he would have no qualms about taking his son on a chairlift without a restraint bar. As long as he kept one eye extra on his son.

"The trick is always making certain you know what your child is up to," Holmes said. "Most of the time he sits pretty still. He knows he's up high."

As in 30 to 40 feet, the distance most resorts and ski areas put between their patrons and the ground below.

That was the distance a 4-year-old girl fell while riding the Sunnyside chairlift Dec. 19 at Alta Ski Area, according to Unified Fire Authority Capt. Clint Smith. The girl was face down in the snow and not breathing after the fall. She was revived by CPR and flown to Primary Children's Medical Center, and suffered a minor concussion. She was released the day after she fell, authorities said.

Twelve days later, at Snow King Resort in Jackson, Wyo., a 7-year-old boy fell 30 feet. He suffered a minor head injury and ruptured lung, according to The Associated Press . The boy was taken to a Salt Lake City hospital were his condition was declared stable.

 

Falls by two children in such close succession may lead some to question safety protocol at ski resorts, and if children are being short-changed. Industry groups and at least one long-time veteran of lift-operations management insist, however, that resorts do all they can to ensure the safety of children who ski their slopes.

Tom Patton, lift operations manager for Snowbird, said that during his 30 years in the business of overseeing lifts for five resorts and ski areas he has only known of two incidents among perhaps 20 million lift rides in which people of any age have fallen from their lift chairs. Last month's falls, Patton said, represent "an extreme anomaly."

"In all honesty, transportation by aerial cable ways is one of the safest modes of transportation there is," he said.

On its Web site, nsaa.org, the National Ski Areas Association notes that less than 10 percent of all fatal skiing injuries befall skiers and snowboarders "under 10 or over 50 years of age." The majority of fatalities in skiing fall roughly in line with the same population of people who die or suffer injuries in other high-risk ski behaviors, typically men in their late teens on up to their early 30s.

As frequent visitors to Utah resorts and ski areas know, warnings and other postings dot trails and the inside of lodges. Industrywide recommendations for responsible behavior admonishes skiers and snowboarders to stay in control, among other tips. Specific to chairlifts, skiers are given posted warnings on lift polls to never swing or sway the chair, and check for any clothing or equipment that may have become attached to the chair before getting off the lift.

"We have no way of monitoring what patrons do when they leave the lift station," Patton said. "All we can do is advise our patrons on safety measures."

The age at which a child may ski a resort or area is often left to parental discretion, but many resorts set the age-limit for lessons at age 3, as is the practice at Snowbasin resort, said Jodi Holmgren, director of marketing and public relations.

"Abilities just vary so much," Holmgren said. "You could have a 24-year-old adult that may not be as agile as a 3-year-old in terms of loading the lift."

Holmgren said Snowbasin has upgraded two of its lifts from a "fixed grip chair" to "detachable grip lifts." The detachable lifts allow for more speed up the hill, yet slower loading and unloading times for enhanced safety.

All of Snowbasin's chair-lifts feature restraint bars, said Holmgren. Patton said all of Snowbird's chairlifts feature them as well.

Even so, Patton said, studies have failed to show that using restraints reduces the number of people who may fall out of a chair. Only New York and Vermont require patrons to use restraint bars. Every other state, including Utah, operates on the volunteer system.

Alta Ski Area does not have restraint bars on any of its lifts. Dustin Thompson, a Salt Lake City Internet developer skiing the resort with his 4- and 6-year-old sons Saturday, said Alta's chairlifts don't bother him one bit.

"I'm their restraint monitor," Thompson said. "They know the rules: Sit all the way back, no dangling, no leaning forward and if a ski falls off your foot, let it fall off."


 
post #2 of 20
I didn't read the full story above and I apologize if I am redundant.

I have noticed that parents take their kids on some of the old fixed chairs. Bad call. All I see on those are mishaps and stopped lifts.

If there are detachable modern chairs serving the kind of terrain your child enjoys, use them, exclusively. period. so much easier for the child, and safer. In fact, don't even go to ski areas that dn't have modern detachable lifts with safety bars.
post #3 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by davluri View Post
 In fact, don't even go to ski areas that dn't have modern detachable lifts with safety bars.

I think that's a great call. To start with, stay away from Mt. Baker. Deadly place, and way too crowded.
post #4 of 20
I took my 40 pound kid for his first lift rides over the holiday beak,  Detachable isn't necessary, but it is preferred.  A double is less intimidating than a quad or triple is to a 5 year old.   Just ask the liftie to slow it down if you have a really little one and the lift to the green terrain is older.   Once you are on, keep engaged with the kid.  It is when they lose their concentration (and you yours) that they become at risk for slouching and slipping off the seat though the bar.  That was also what they told instructors way back when,  If we pay attention the kids don't have opportunity for as many accidents.
post #5 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by iWill View Post




I think that's a great call. To start with, stay away from Mt. Baker. Deadly place, and way too crowded.
Yep.  Kids falling off chairs like leaves in Autumn.
post #6 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by crgildart View Post

I took my 40 pound kid for his first lift rides over the holiday beak,  Detachable isn't necessary, but it is preferred.  A double is less intimidating than a quad or triple is to a 5 year old.   Just ask the liftie to slow it down if you have a really little one and the lift to the green terrain is older.   Once you are on, keep engaged with the kid.  It is when they lose their concentration (and you yours) that they become at risk for slouching and slipping off the seat though the bar.  That was also what they told instructors way back when,  If we pay attention the kids don't have opportunity for as many accidents.
 

I'm so stoked to hear you're teaching your mighty mite,  as we name them at Squaw. My son is now 18, but it seems like yesterday he was 40lbs. Anything I can relate from my experience that would help, let me know. I'm going to try to dig out a story I wrote about me and my son. It was something about doing 8's together, wrote it a few years back.


 

Are you a first generation skier? post 33, give it a browse.


Edited by davluri - 1/4/10 at 5:45pm
post #7 of 20
lifts aren't dangerous for the same reason jumps aren't dangerous, you can't get hurt in the air. Smashing into the earth? That'll leave a mark. 
post #8 of 20
Not as dangerous as video games and cell phones.
post #9 of 20
Yeah, leave the kid to the vid games and the little SOB will die fat and of a stroke.

But!

When they are little .... poles in the left hand and kid on the right leaving my right hand free to pin em' in till we "relax" on the ride up.  But, do you ever "relax" ... ?  Nope!  Even when the kid is firmly sitting back in the seat you have to keep that right hand ready.

A day when the chairs are icing and the wind is from behind ... is a two Valium day ... just kidding but a sudden gust when they are unloading (bar up) ... you never relax with a little one.
post #10 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lars View Post

Not as dangerous as video games and cell phones.

I think he means playing with that stuff on the lift is dangerous
post #11 of 20
I was an instructor with Club Med at Crested Butte for the 05-06 season and the resort had about three or four older fixed lifts with no safety bars. Coming from Canada where every lift has a safety bar, I was shocked. I was never comfortable using these lifts - I used to put my arm over the back of the seat and hold on.

The base elevation of the ski area and the village is about 9300 feet and the peak elevation is over 12000 feet. Guests usually have some degree of altitude illness, which can include nausea and dizzyness, so there is an additional strong reason to have a safety bar on every lift.

I complained about this to the ski patrol, but they defended the practice on the basis that the accident statistics indicated that the lifts with no safety bars were just as safe. I told them that lawsuits would be more sucessful in accidents involving lifts with no safety bars.

While I was there, I knew of one child that had fallen out of a lift. He was on the chair with other children with no adult and one of the children had raised the safety bar just prior to the fall. I think kids should always have an adult on the chair with them.
post #12 of 20
Oh!  (Emily Litella voice from SNL)  ... nevvvvvvvvvver mind.

Actually, I've been almost hit by a cell phone and had a few close calls with those Motorola radios along with a few things flung on purpose like water bottles and yogurt containers ...


Watching the lift smack the kid and scoop them up like a deranged snowplow ... remember the kid is shorter and will fall into the chair then react and fall out ... from like even 10 feet isn't pretty.  Mom or Dad is standing there with their fingers in their nose and not attending to junior ..

Poor kids ...
post #13 of 20
Living in NY, I always had the bar restraint.  I realize that it doesn't do anything to keep me safe, yet I feel alot safer.  Go to PC next month and was going to stop by Alta, but no one in the group is comfortable with a non restraint bar lift.

In snowmass last year, I was on lift that went over  a ravine, I forgot the name of the lift but only rode it once.  I must of been up in the air about 60-80 feet, I just cant imagine not having a bar on that type of lift.  I did have the chance to ride one of the lifts at snowmass that didn't have the bar but we were up only 15 feet or so for the entire trip.
post #14 of 20

Sometimes I wish we didn't have "Coffee may be hot" or "Knife may be sharp" warnings today -- people just need to have some common sense, and take responsibility for their own well being

To that end, the idea of a chairlift seems horribly unsafe, and I doubt we could convince people otherwise if chairlifts weren't grandfathered in.  But because it seems unsafe, people are more careful around it, so it actually has a great safety record -- anecdotally, skiing itself seems vastly more dangerous than chairlifts, and this (old) link seems to agree: community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/

To that end, at least for teenagers, I'll submit that safety restraints might make things less safe because it gives kids a feeling of safety that allows them to horseplay/lean over the edge, etc. 

As for kids, is there a beginner's chair at your area?  A lot of places I know have a short chair lift serving a nearly flat hill which the lifty is happy to slow for anyone who asks (which makes it a slow ride up, so hopefully it is really short).  I'd stay there until they are comfortable getting on and off.  Detachable chairs may be good too, but I think it is good to learn on a fixed chair.  My 2¢...

post #15 of 20
I don't believe the supposed statistics that are supposed to prove these accidents are statistically negligeable. I know of two incidents at the area where I used to teach where young children fell 30 feet or so and the only reason I know of those is that gossip had begun to spead around the locker room and the management decided to keep us somewhat informed and urge us not to talk about it. I never heard a word about either incident, both of which occuired in a narrow time frame, in the news media even though they involved serious injuries. I have no doubt there were others that were kept quiet from us. I've lost track of the number of incidents that I witnessed right after loading. These didn't generally involve much injury even when the kids were essentially run over by the chair because the falls were from not very high up and kids seem to be pretty resilient.
post #16 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yuki View Post

Oh!  (Emily Litella voice from SNL)  ... nevvvvvvvvvver mind.

Actually, I've been almost hit by a cell phone and had a few close calls with those Motorola radios along with a few things flung on purpose like water bottles and yogurt containers ...


Watching the lift smack the kid and scoop them up like a deranged snowplow ... remember the kid is shorter and will fall into the chair then react and fall out ... from like even 10 feet isn't pretty.  Mom or Dad is standing there with their fingers in their nose and not attending to junior ..

Poor kids ...


 


one obvious, however rude, observation could be that the parent should be of advanced ability with lots of lift experience if they intend to be the observer / helper of a 4 year old child.
post #17 of 20
Don't kids get hurt more by skiing than by lifts?  By some order of magnitude?  Seems like putting your kid on a lift might actually be a lot less negligent than the act of taking them skiing.  
post #18 of 20
How many of us went through adolescence without falling off a chairlift?

I think people are becoming either wussier, or less responsible...maybe a combnation of both. You have a fidgety kid? Plant his/her butt in the seat and use your poles across their lap to keep them there. Dont rely on a safety bar that they can slide under.

If the lift is too fast, ask the liftie to slow it down while you and your child load the chair.
post #19 of 20

All ski lifts are dangerous to anyone who doesn't know what they are doing.  I started skiing when I was 4 on double chairs that didn't slow down and were fairly high for me.  I knew what to do though, thanks to a sweet dad, and I'm here today.  Teach your kids not to be idiots in proper situations (restaurants, airplanes, ski lifts, etc) and they will be fine.  Almost no parents teach their kids when it is okay to be a kid, and when they need to act properly these days.  It's a load of crap.  Tell them if they fool around on lifts, they are very likely to DIE.  It helps to keep an eye on them too.

Edit:  I remember being on a scary double chair with no protective devices, and being over 80 ft in the air.  I was clinging to the bar in the middle in case a gust of wind came. 

post #20 of 20
 You know I think people need to use common sense more, while its obviously not the case with smaller children every "accident" I have heard of happening involved people doing stupid things. Such as pushing people, trying to jump from the chair or any other stupid thing you can think to do on a chairlift.

I also think that its interesting that no one talks about surface lifts. While the injuries are often less serious they do happen. I have seen people that got pulled into support poles because they couldn't keep themsleves in the track or they got run over because they fell and didn't get out of the way the people behind them. 
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