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chairlift loading/unloading tykes

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Any advice/feedback on special considerations for a class of 6 year olds learning to ride a detachable quad the first time?

post #2 of 25
The advice that I have for loading a lift with any younger children is try to be in the middle of them. Have the ones that struggle getting on the lift be closest to the liftie, so they may help, and if you need to help a child on the lift by hand, always grab the child by the wrist and never by the glove because the glove can come off. Good luck.
post #3 of 25
Jane, my experience is that the lifties are the key. At Eldora, they are really great about slowing the lift, helping the kids load, etc., even on fixed-grip lifts.

Before even entering the lift line, we spend time in an out-of-the-way position observing people loading. We talk about what people do as they move to the loading zone, wait for the chair, sit back on the chair, and how the chair takes off after they sit on it. We let them ask questions, then head over. We let the lifties know that it's the first time, and work with them to get the kids loaded. They usually alert the top, as well.
post #4 of 25
Speaking of lifts and kids;

Last year at Sunday River an instructor asked me to take two little kids on the beginner quad so I said yes.

I assumed the lift attendants would slow down the quad because there was a large group of very little kids.

I had two cute little kids on either side of me. I told both of them do not go until I say and I will help move you to the chair. I held both of them on their arms so they could not slide by accident.

The chair comes around for the people in front of us and one of the kids I am with shrugs me off and goes for it. I couldn't go get him because I would get taken out and the other little kid I was holding would also.

Of course the chair keeps coming full speed because the attendant is talking to his buddy and I am yelling for him to stop the lift. He stops it just in time to scoop the kid and knock him over gently.

Meanwhile the instructors are looking at me crosseyed and this kids mother is screaming at me from the lift.

I get both of the kids on the lift and the one kid who got knocked over was cool with the whole ordeal.

I get to the top and ski the two kids over to their instructor who looks at me with a pissy look and skis off.

That is the last time I will help an instructor bring kids up a lift. I don't want the liability after this event.

What is the official stand on having random people in a liftline be held responsible for children in the care of a lesson or skiing program?

Is it different for various resorts?

I know it is impossible for one or two instructors to get more than 6 kids on a lift so what is the official rule for this?
post #5 of 25
Some mountains give instructors a tail gunner when they have a large group of small kids in their lesson. The "Tail Gunner" is usually a Junior Ski Instructor that helps the instructor in situations like getting on the lift or trailing the class down the hill helping kids up when they fall. More mountains should employ this practice to help avoid situations just like the one you were involved in.
post #6 of 25
Little kids should never ride the lift alone. Asking a member of the public for help on the chair with a kids group is allowed at my hill, but is considered the least desirable option, for exactly the reasons you mentioned. Our SS prefers you find another instructor (or junior instructor), or, if available, have an "extra" liftie (not on skis) take a group up and then download back to the bottom.

Tom / PM
post #7 of 25
I love talking to the kids on the lifts because they are usually excited about skiing and keep talking and talking about it. At Sunday River they have little balloons tied to them.

I just don't feel like having some kids parents yell at me because lift operators weren't paying attention and I wouldn't want a child to get hurt under my care.
post #8 of 25
Thread Starter 
Scalce brings up a good point: what to do when the kid/instructor ratio is too high? I'll have possibly six kids to load/unload. It's considered OK at my mountain to ask for adult help in the lineup and there are usually experienced skiers at that lift. It's unlikely that I'll be able to get help from other instructors as they're too busy; parents may be a possibility.

Also, how far back to get them to sit in the chair? They have tiny little legs which stick straight out if they're all the way back. On the other hand, I don't want them close to the edge for obvious reasons.
post #9 of 25
>...what to do when there aren't enough instructors for kids? That will be my situation. I'll probably have four to six students...

It isn't clear to me if you are an instructor, however, at our hill, with really small kids, you are assigned a max of 2 kids per instructor so that you can sit in the middle. I believe the ages for this is 6 and under. For somewhat older kids, we do get larger groups, but we do what I said in my previous post and ALWAYS have one adult (hopefully, an employee) per chair of beginner kids.

There is no flexibility about the safety bar issue with kids in my charge - its goes down ASAP.

OTOH, I am somewhat flexible about the "sitting all the way back" issue. If I sense that a child is a bit scared and wants to sit way back in the chair, I'll let them do this and I'll put an arm around them. OTOH, I prefer that they sit with both of their arms wrapped over the bar since many are of a height such that sitting all the way back would tend to make them slide under the bar. I let them know that taking their hands off the safety bar, squirming/fooling around is a real serious no-no. When its time for the bar to be raised, I extend my arms to the side in front of both kids to make sure they stay in place for the last few seconds of the ride. If I think they need to grab on to my arms, I tell them to do so. If they decide to do this on their own, I let them and I crouch down while unloading so that my arms are not too high for them.

Tom / PM
post #10 of 25
Two stories (and at the risk of embarrassing myself). Kids will always tell you they can do things they cannot. Instructors will know this, the average Joe in a ski lift line may not. If you ask a young kid if they need help getting on a ski lift, a meaningful percentage will say "no" even though they do. On my kid's first ride up a ski lift when he was six and attending ski school, he was told to ride up the lift with a non-instructor adult that happened to be in line. As they were going up the lift, the stranger asked my kid if he needed help getting off and my kid said "no" he was fine. They got to the top, he fell and the chair conked him good on the head. He was fine, but shaken (not stirred).

Second story, same kid next year. He finishes his ski school class and we go for one final run after ski school. He and I are lined up to get on a double chair. As the chair approached, it hit the back of my knee at the same time he was leaping up to get his butt in the seat causing him to miss his target. The chair took off and he was 40% on the chair and 60% off. I had a choice of dropping him so he would fall to the ground or struggle with the grip I had to pull him up. The problem was the lift got higher off the ground pretty quickly. So, I dropped him on purpose because I didn't know how much longer I could hold on given I was in a glove and only had his coat for a grip and I didn't know when or if the liftie would notice. It was a small fall of only about three-four feet at this point and he was fine, but it could have been worse.

My point? If that could happen with me watching my own kid, I shutter to think what could happen with a non-trained person helping up the lift. There is a skill to helping a newbie kid get on a lift and I don’t know that I'm comfortable (not that I have a choice) with the average skier doing the helping.
post #11 of 25
Thread Starter 
Thanks, Physics Man. I am a volunteer instructor in a locally-based program where the students come for nine lessons in a season; thus I have the same students. I've done this for a number of years but always had older students where the chair wasn't such a big issue. This year's class consists of 6 year olds that the parents rated as level 3; they had at least some lessons last year and have been on the chair before, at least minimally. However, they seem tiny to me and have short attention spans, so it's a new challenge to me.
post #12 of 25
I am a good skier but I have no doubts that I was not trained to get very little kids on and off a lift.

It seems that Sunday River was one of the places that repeatedly would ask normal people to help with the kids.

I don't think that they would look for an experienced skier but would rather ask whoever was the closest in the lift to help.

The more I read these replies the happier I am with my decision to let the pros handle it.

post #13 of 25
When my son was five, I asked his ski instructor how he selected people to help the class get up the chairlift. His first rule: don't trust anyone who wears mirrored sun glasses. And I still feel that way
post #14 of 25
I have worked at two resorts. One resort had a strict policy about kids and lifts. Young kids are not allowed to ride the lifts alone. There needs to be a ratio of 3 kids : 1 instructor or 2 kids : 1 adult on the lifts. It became a normal practice for instructors to help each other out - or for instructors to ask GP (general public) to help.

Couple of rules about the GP
1. never ask anyone on rental equipment
2. make sure you ask a "mature adult"
3. use good judgement on who you chose - when you ask, if they hesitate, ask someone else

That being said - I used to teach kids to ride chairs. I'd always pair tall kids with shorts kids. I'd explain that riding chairs is a very important thing to be able to do, but only people who are responsible and safe can do it.

Every single time we would learn a new lift I'd take the kids and watch the chairs loading for awhile. I'd map out what the people do, how it works. I'd ask lots of questions. I'd break it into steps. Kids learn patterns - sequential information.. try to use rhymes or other pneumonics. example:

1. wait at the gate until the chair goes by
2. slide to the red line
3. you turn around and watch the chair
4. grab the chair, sit down, and scoot back
5. you ask if everyone is ready and then the tallest people lower the bar

I repeat it 5 or 6 times... as we watch people... I talk them through it. Then I turn to them and ask:

- what's the first thing you do?
- what do you do when it's time to lower the bar?
- who lowers the bar?

I keep this up until all the kids can answer all the questions. Again, I make it a game. I make fun of myself for giving wrong answers and having them correct me - I tell them I can't hear them to make them shout the answers, etc.

I also make sure I explain (in AS MUCH DETAIL) how to get off the chair, I make sure to explain where we wait for each other. ALL BEFORE WE GET ON THE CHAIR.

Finally, when I ask for help from the GP - I ask the adult's name. I introduce my kid and remind my kid to "teach (adult's name) how to ride the chair the right way!!" I wink at the adult - I tell the adult if this is a kid who knows how to ride a chair or a first timer. I take the "weakest" kids with me. AND, the kids all go ahead of me - I take the last chair.

I also remind all the kids that they can just ski off, but if they accidentally fall they need to ROLL out of the way as quickly as possible because more people are coming. [img]smile.gif[/img]

Don't worry about it... just be really complete in your explanations, make sure the kids can repeat everything back to you and only recruit really responsible adults.


post #15 of 25
Can you teach some adults etiquette about lowering the bar?

I can't tell you how many times someone conks me or my wife on the head because he wips down the bar without asking if everyone is cool with it.

Good thing we wear helmets or I would be extremely pissed.
post #16 of 25
It looks like all info is covered. I just want to add one more thought about the safety bar. I wait until the last second to raise the bar, especially on high speed chairs as the slow way down at unloading. On fixed grip chairs I try to get the liftie's attention at the top (ask liftie at the bottom to call ahead) and have them slow the chair to unload but I still extend my arms to secure the kids until we're on the ground. If you are using an adult to help, I tell them of these points also.
post #17 of 25
scalce -

why do you and your wife let people conk you in the head? I get on the chair and immediately put a hand up high to hold the bar and ask to make sure everyone is ready...

post #18 of 25
Originally posted by kieli:
scalce -

why do you and your wife let people conk you in the head? I get on the chair and immediately put a hand up high to hold the bar and ask to make sure everyone is ready...

Usually I am the barman but the few times I did not lower it I got nailed.

I always ask, "Everybody in" they nod and say OK and then I lower it.

Of course when there are two people in a quad and you are not on the end you are just asking to get hit in the head by that stupid grip hanging down.

post #19 of 25
Originally posted by Scalce:
Can you teach some adults etiquette about lowering the bar?

I can't tell you how many times someone conks me or my wife on the head because he wips down the bar without asking if everyone is cool with it.

Good thing we wear helmets or I would be extremely pissed.
I have had at least one ski day ruined by over-zealous bar lowering. I spent most of my teen years racing at smaller areas where the lift rides were short and we were race training, as a result, I usually keep my poles in my hands as I load the lift and then dangle them from the straps as I ride. Once, after loading a high speed quad, the guy on the other end of the lift lowered the bar while the lift was still leaving the lift house. Both my poles were trapped by the bar and dragged along the ground. I was able to free one pole but the other was badly bent. Luckily my hand wasn't trapped between the pole and the safety bar or I could easily have broken my fingers. The guy on the lift sat quietly and never apologized for his mistake.
I have also been conked on the head several times by people who lower the bar without thinking about other people. I also wear a helmet so it is a minor annoyance.
post #20 of 25
>...Good thing we wear helmets or I would be extremely pissed...

In addition to protecting your head from safety bar hits, a helmet also makes a surprisingly loud and obvious noise when it is hit. This noise, followed immediately by a "Geeze" muttered just loud enough for the offender to hear it, and combined with a rolling of the eyes in their direction seems to shame most people into being more careful without any discussion whatsoever being necessary.

Tom / PM
post #21 of 25
in 2 child one instructor lessons, if the children are still needing lots of help, I bring a long pole (bamboo) Loading I get one child (lift onto the chair) and ask the lift op to get the second one in to the chair. Then the bamboo makes a seat belt along with the safety bar. Unloading I take each childs inside hand and make them hold the bamboo with both hands while I hold their inside hands and the bamboo. we count to three and all hop off together. You then have some control of how fast they speed down the ramp and where they go as well as a way to help them stay upright. The kids holding the pole also usually gets them leaning forward a little.

Our hill allows us (if the kids are able to load themselves) to put groups of 3 kids on the chair with no instructor. if the lift op is doing their job efficiently they usually put the bar down as the chair is heading off the ramp. The kids need to demonstrate that they are responsible before allowed to ride this way.
post #22 of 25
First of all, I try to do this without poles. If for some reason you have them, ditch them. You'll need both hands free, trust me

Weed out your weakest/smallest and keep them on your left and right. Send the strongest/tallest to the outside of the chair as they will need the least amount of help.

Have the lift op help you out by slowing or even stopping the chair the first time if need be.

Our detachable has numbered lanes so I assign each kid their number and have them repeat it to me so they know which lane they are to be in. Always stress that they should ski straight in...no wandering left/right. I also point out to them if anything goes wrong, the chair WILL stop, so don't panic.

Watch the smallest ones on your left and right as you will likely have to pick them up into the chair before they slide off.

Lower the bar and tell them to always sit back as far against the seat as they can. Little ones can slide right under the safety bar.

Helmets are a must. I can't even count how many little ones have slid under the chair at loading. The lids have prevented any injuries from the chair hitting the back of their head.
post #23 of 25
Hello Janeb,

Ask the other people in line for volunteers who WANT to ride up with a child. I do ( I have 3 and a 6 year old ) so I know what to expect ( asking the liftie to slow the chair, lifting the child in, being ready to assist the child off the chair, warning them of fallen people in the unloading area etc... ) Johnny JibMonkey could not care less ( cell phone/Mp3 player/looking cool are higher priorty items ).

Warn the children about the other people they might be riding up with ( there was a child killed in France when the other people pulled the bar down and choked him to death ) and have them ask to have the bar put down.

Ask the lifties to do what you want them to do, never assume they will - hey they have to deal with bozos all day, you might have caugth them just after one have rode up...

Explain to the children what to do in the event something goes wrong....lost pole/glove/ski ( get the tower number ), if they fall ( stay down until the lift passes over, then hustle out of the way etc )

Other than that...as a parent I salute you!

post #24 of 25
Most of the classes at Bridger Bowl with younger students ride up the Virginia City chair which is an old Riblet two seater. The policy is to have the smaller kids ride up with an adult. The ticket checkers and lift operators ask every adult boarding the chair to ride with a kid. If there aren't enough adults to ride with all the kids they will use the PA system in the lodge to request adults to go to the Virginia City chair & ride with the kids.
post #25 of 25
Years ago Ski Magazine had a article on first time skiers and kids. one of the things I remember about the article was this.

When loading a chair lift with your child, grab them by the wrist and put your poles across there stomach. Your poles are there to help them get pushed back onto the chair. Your poles act as a safety bar in front of them.

It worked well for us and still does when I take small kids on the lift with me.
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