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Kids lessons and the legal waiver

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
I've like to find out your opinions on legal waivers vs. reality, and get some ideas on how to get past my current situation.

Here's the background: I've got two kids, ages 5 and 3. I would love to get the 5yr old into ski school for all the usual reasons, and the local mountain has a good program, weekly with the same instructor. However, when we went to sign him up this year, the legal waiver stated, in no uncertain terms, that the children WILL be riding the lift without an adult. The person running the program said that they would try their best to ensure that an adult would be riding with them (this didn't reassure us). A kid's ski school director said that they do NOT let them ride without an adult under age 7. Several ski instructors said they do not let them ride without an adult under age 7. Unfortunately none have been able to come up with any written policy other than the legal waiver.

From my point of view, I don't want my 5yr old riding the lift with other kids and no adult. Even though we constantly work on safety and protocol, he's still 5. But I really do tend to believe the director and instructors that they wouldn't send the kids without an adult (although I wish they could provide that policy in writing). The wording and emphatic nature of the legal waiver has my wife completely opposed to letting the kids go with the ski school until we can get this resolved. I'd rather not wait until they are 8 or so before sending them to ski school (when they will have been skiing for 6 yrs).

So, for those of you with young kids in ski school, do your areas have this type of clause in the waiver? How have you dealt with ensuring your kid's safety? For the ski school types on this board, is this the norm, and what can I do to try to resolve this?

Thanks in advance!

post #2 of 21
Get him private lessons.
post #3 of 21

I've had my 2 boys, now 9 & 11, in and out of ski schools since they've been about 4 and have never had a problem. I've always had to sign a waiver and it has, in some instances, indicated that the kids would ride the lift alone. I, like you, ask about the small kids and was told that an adult would ride with these kids, but that the older kids may ride alone, but they had to disclose this to limit liability. When I dropped my kids off, I would reiterate my concerns and let the instructors, again re-assure me that the small kids would be well taken care of and ride with an adult. I let them know that I'd be watching....whether I was or not and I certainly checked with my kids after the lesson.

As to your concern about a written policy regarding the kids under 7, I probably wouldn't worry about it if you've already spoken to the instructors there AND the school has a good reputation. A written policy is only as good as the people behind it anyway.

Bottom line: When you drop your kids off with them, they're responsible for the kids safety and they know this. A liability waiver doesn't change this responsibility.
post #4 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks Coach. This school has a good rep and I think they would keep them with adults. Unfortunately this waiver thing has become a complete roadblock for my better half. So I'm hoping to find a good solution, or some facts or policies to reassure her. Complicating this is friends telling us of two separate occurrences of kids falling off lifts in the last two weeks (although one was with race coaches). Do you think statistics are available for how often this occurs? I know the instructors have to fill out incident reports, but I don't know if that info is available.

Kneale: Thanks. But, I'm looking to get him skiing with other kids as well as the instruction since he skis with adults all the time. We're looking at doing one of the weekly programs.
post #5 of 21
I understand what you're trying to do. My suggestion was aimed at the "better half". Then you and she should take him skiing with a few of his friends.

In other words, he gets a concentrated lesson and then you guys go skiing in a group.

[ January 18, 2004, 01:41 PM: Message edited by: Kneale Brownson ]
post #6 of 21
Every ski school I've worked for in the US and Oz had a firm rule about having kids ride chairs with competant adults. Oddly, the Oz resorts had a higher minimum age than the US ones! Causes some annoying delays at load point as you try to entrap adults but it's a sensible policy.
post #7 of 21
As a skier, a father and an adult (even if someone would differ from this statement) I always offer to ride with kids belonging to a class, and lately I've noticed and increase of instructor asking to adults around to ride with some of their younger students. As of late I've shared the lift with 5-6-7- and 8
y.o children. Let's be clear, I don't linger at the bottom
station of chairlifts waiting to pick up children...but if it happens, I'm more than happy to help.
I can only hope that the karma will pay back, and some other adult will ride the lift with mine when the need arise.
I know it's not what you wanted to say, but sometime, to pretend too much legal protection it's a bit excessive.
Let's say that I trustthe instructors, and I trust my children to make use of all of the judgement they have.
post #8 of 21
Here is my take on this legal waiver vs practice. A legal waiver is exactely that, a waiver drafted by lawyers designed to protect the area in the offside chance the somehow a child wound up riding in a chair without an adult.

I believe what your ski school said, that they always try to have an adult accompany a young child on a lift. Howevever look at the limitations in practice: One (or max two, which happens rarely) instructor takes out a group of 6 to 10 little kids. Even if they ride quad chairs **all** of the time, that means there will be at least 4 kids and possibly 7 kids not able to be accompanied by an instructor. Therefore for each trip back up, the instructor must find adult volunteers willing to chaperone his remaining kids. What the ski school is saying is that they will try their hardest (and succeed most of the time) in doing so. What the area management is saying is that there still leaves a chance that sometimes that is plain not going to happen, for practical reasons.

For the management to say that your child in a group lesson will be accompanied by an adult 100% of the time without fail, the ski school will need to increase the instructor to kid ratio of all its lessons. Is the consumper ready to bear the burden of concomitantly increased cost of kids lessons because of this?
post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all your input! It sounds like the prevailing opinion is to accept the waiver and rely on the word of the ski school. As Ant said, there's usually a strict policy in place (and if I remember my history Ant may have worked at this area). It would make it a lot easier if the waiver matched the policy though.

post #10 of 21
As a former kids-only instructor and now as someone who does lots of children and family privates, I can share some observations.
My personal experience in 15 years of ski teaching is that most five-year-olds are able to take on the responsibility of riding a lift without an adult if they are given proper instruction and are given appropriate assistance from lift operators in getting on the chair. In fact, they can prove to be more reliable and conscientious than some of their older peers. At the previous area I worked at which is a major one in Colorado, children in class lessons did and do continue to ride lifts at age 5 and up unaccompanied by an adult. Amazing, eh?
In my 15 years of ski teaching I have never seen a child of this age fall from a lift who was physically and cognitively appropriate for an able-bodied class. There was one exception in 11 years - a young girl who clearly had behavioral and developmental issues and chose to jump as a prank.
Again, this is personal experience - anecdotal info. Others on this site may differ. But perhaps it might help color your perspective on the issue.
post #11 of 21
Vera - I'm glad you finally said something about the kids... [img]smile.gif[/img]

I teach kids - spent my first few seasons teaching the all-day kid's programs on the weekends. I taught at a family mountain. The kind of place where kids get radios and are allowed to ski with friends since it's a safe and smaller place.

Teaching kids to ride chairlifts alone is incredibly empowering and it facilitates their ability to have some freedom on the mountain.

Instructors take the saftey of the children VERY VERY seriously. I never ever put a kid in a situation that could put that child into harm's way.

Some kids are taller, smaller, stronger, weaker, more responsible, less responsible - etc. I always paired a shorter or weaker kid with a taller or stronger kid. I told them they were chair buddies. I taught them how to work together to ride a double chair.

Above and beyond a kid's desire to learn independence skills - please note that there are many parents who are not VERY competent skiers and they really don't know how to assist their children on the lifts. By teaching children how to ride chairs, this also helps the parents when it's time to ski together. It's not always possible to teach the parents how to ride the chair with their kids.

So - I truly believe your 5 year old will always ride with an adult, because that's YOUNG. But, please see the benefits of your child learning to ride alone at 6 or 7 years old.

Finally - kids learn to be afraid mostly from watching adults express fear.

Good Luck with it all! [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #12 of 21
double post - sorry

[ January 19, 2004, 08:48 PM: Message edited by: kieli ]
post #13 of 21
In the whole of the season 2003 teaching tiddlers at Copper I never had any who had to ride the lift alone under second grade or 6 y.o. This was school policy.

If there were lifts with a low incidence of adults, especially non-beginner adults we planned for this, games and balance excercises in the wait, planning our skiing down, avoiding the lift completely etc.

Most adults were very helpful and anyone who expressed any sort of reluctance, generally lack of confidence, or was a novice was not selected long with most snowboarders; just being an adult was not sufficient.

All the other instructors I worked with operated the same way.

BTW it is a lot harder in Europe to find lift buddies even with the language.
post #14 of 21
Originally posted by Nettie:
In the whole of the season 2003 teaching tiddlers at Copper I never had any who had to ride the lift alone under second grade or 6 y.o. This was school policy.
We can look at this situation on the brighter side. It's reassuring that ski school practices are more stringent in this regard than what are officially mandated by the area management.
post #15 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thinking about this and reading through everyone's experiences has been eye-opening. In the 15 or so years of part-time teaching of my youth I probably taught hundreds of people how to get on and off a lift. But I don't know if I ever really taught them how not to fall or jump off of a lift (other than telling them not to do it ). I guess it seemed intuitive to stay on the lift. We always did send the little ones with an adult however. I don't think many kids under 6 or 7 have the strength or dexterity to get themselves out of a jam (someone sliding off or poorly loaded, etc.) where an adult can easily help.

I'm pretty sure we'll get this sorted out. I'm still holding out hope of finding the ski school policy and getting him in for Feb and Mar.

post #16 of 21
I think this is a serious concern. It certainly was a concern for me when I was teaching children. Several children did fall off chair lifts while I was teaching although not in my class thank god. Provisions for ensuring safety were minimal. You were supposed to see that the youngest ones rode with an adult but the instructor ratio was such that this meant trying to recruit adult skiers, not in class to accompany them. These folks weren't necessarily prepared to deal with the hazards. Little kids have such sort legs that they tend to sit on the edge of the seat and their attention level is such that they are frequently distracted and moving/squirming. I'm amazed that there are not more of these kinds of serious accidents. Those accidents I am aware of were kept pretty quiet. I'm not sure that even the ski school staff was entirely aware of what accidents had occurred. It does seem to me that some kind of safety devices ought to be possible.
post #17 of 21

How were the 5 year olds able to reach the safety bar in order to pull it down? I have a 5 year old and a 4 year old and they do not have the reach capabilities to bring the bar down. Di they ride with it up? I think the real concern here is the slick padding on the chairs versus the child's ski pants. I would want my kids to ride with the bar down.
post #18 of 21
Ullr, great point. You certainly have a valid concern for children of this age for lifts with heavy bars.

Interestingly, at the resort I cited which is the third largest in Colorado, most of the lifts lack "safety bars" including those on the beginner terrain. Lifts that do feature bars have very light ones lacking footrests which are easy even for a 5-year-old to pull down and raise. The children are intensively drilled, monitored and assessed in procedures for safely riding the lifts including keeping their skis straight (no knocking them together), scooting back and sitting with their backs to the back of the chair, not removing gloves or hats, not turning around to talk to peers behind them, loading on the outside ends of the chair so they can reach the bar to pull it down, etc. Instructors ride the first chair, to help children unload. The lift operators are also intensively schooled to assist.
At this resort, which has a very large, well-regarded and successful children's program, kids begin riding lifts all over the mountain at age 5. 3-4 year olds do not ride lifts, but are towed up to the beginner terrain above in a wagon behind a snowmobile.
All this continues to occur under a management which historically (our CEO at the time I lived there was a former attorney) has been extremely risk aware and risk averse. As a side note I found it interesting that as employees we were directed not to use the term "safety" in referring to the bar, as it implied a guarantee to the public for which we were told there was no statistically proven basis in fact ("safety" bars did not lessen accident statistics). Doing so was supposedly an opening for liability!
Where I currently work, all lifts feature bars, many of them heavy and cumbersome to lower and raise. It's not surprising that children 3-6 years here must be accompanied by an adult. They are partnered with the public and then ride to the top and await their instructor's arrival. Nevertheless, there can be potential holes in this type of system as well: a child's safety is completely dependent on the competence of the adult riding with them as well as the instructor's ability to assess that in pairing kids up with strangers. Because the instructors in this program are heavily trained, its safety record is excellent and when weather is truly bad, kids are kept on appropriately sheltered terrain.

My point in citing all of the above is that a resort's systems, environment and policies should be evaluated in entirety. Children as young as five are surprising in their ability to gravely and thoughtfully assume responsibility - if they are appropriately trained and supported by a system and facilities designed to augment safety. :

[ January 21, 2004, 07:48 PM: Message edited by: vera ]
post #19 of 21
The real point here is that we attorneys have a way of saying "NO! You do not have permission to sue us! For anything!"

Perhaps more artful wording could send the message better.
post #20 of 21
My 6 year old has been riding a lift by himself or with other kids since last year. My 4 year old just started riding with other kids. They're very careful, and have those arms tight around the central pole of the old 2-person chairs.

Yes, I was scared the first time they did it, as I was on the chair behind them. But I am proud of their skill and glad that they have the autonomy. I'd rather have them know how to behave on a chair than have one adult on a 4-person chair with kids who don't pay attention. Do you think that if any of those kids except the closest to him/her starts falling, he/she will be able to catch them? I doubt it.

In the school I work at, we're being very careful to have riders with kids who start on the chair. But having children graduate to be by themselves on the chair is also an important step to them developing as skiers IMHO.

post #21 of 21
Thread Starter 
Update on my progress with this... In addition to putting the question out here I've also been pursuing it through the ski area and its corporate parent. Yesterday I received a nice email from the Risk Management clarifying the ski school policy and offering to draft a waiver that reflects the policy (under 8 with an adult). He acknowledge the confusing language and said they were working on modifying it.

The practical aspect of what happens in the classes remains unchanged, however now I have the go-ahead to sign him up for Feb and Mar. Thanks for all the great discussion on this topic! Having small children starting on the skiing progression definitely makes one think about different things.

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