Monday, 25 February 2013

Skiing with Kids: Getting Down the Hill Safely Starts on the Chairlift Up (with video)

When I was a kid, I remember a girl showing up at school one Monday with a cast on her leg. She'd been skiing and fell off the chairlift.

The next winter, the son of my hockey coach was paralyzed when the chairlift he was on broke down and he broke his back jumping off.

My friend Clint would regularly get smeared across the disembarkation station of chairlifts because he kept forgetting to lift his tips. You could also count on Clint to have at least one wipe out a day on the t-bar because he was goofing around. Perhaps not surprisingly, Clint was eventually taken off the hill in a sled when he skied into the tower holding the t-bar cable up. He still can't straighten his left arm.

So I wasn't surprised when Youtube footage surfaced of a 17-year-old falling from a chairlift in New Mexico (scroll to the bottom of this post to watch). He slipped while throwing a snowball at a friend, managed to hold on to the chair for a while, then fell 45-feet. He was lucky to "only" break his skull and suffer internal injuries.

Today, high-speed quads equipped with safety bars have replaced rickety old doubles and t-bars at most resorts, and magic carpets whisk kids up bunny hills that used to be serviced by rope tows. I can't even remember the last time I saw a Pomalift. With all this newfangled technology, a lot of us let our guard down once we're down the hill and in the lift line. This is especially true for kids, who are often never taught even the basics of lift safety.

The good news is that lift safety hasn't changed much. After showing my kids the video of the teenager falling off the lift, this is what I told them:
  • Always take the pole straps off your wrists before getting on the lift.
  • Always lower the safety bar.
  • Always sit with your butt as far back as possible in the seat, and don't slouch.
  • Don't goof around on the lift.
  • Don't slap your skis together to get snow off them or swing them back and forth.
  • Don't turn around to throw a snowball at your friends on the lift behind you.
  • If the lift breaks down, wait. It'll either start back up or someone from the resort will come to get you.

You can find more information on lift safety at

Read more about winter safety for kids in these posts:

Kids Outdoor Skills: Age-Appropriate Avalanche Safety Education
Kids Outdoor Skills: Avalanche Safety Video for Teens 

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