Friday, February 4, 2011

Children vs. Chairlifts

Chairlifts can be intimidating to both kids and parents. Some kids need gentle coaxing and light banter on the lift to get their minds off of the anxiety. Other kids have no fear, which are the ones I'm nervous to watch running around the mountain. Some mountains, like Vail in Colorado, require children younger than seven to be accompanied by an adult. While this isn't required at every mountain, there are a few simple steps parents can follow to keep kids safe on the lifts.

Approaching the Lift
It sounds silly, but one of the most common occurrences of lift injuries happens during the approach to the chairs. Many children (and adults) impatiently wait for the chair to pass while standing up to a foot already out of the gate. The chair swings around, catches them, knocks them down, and runs them over. Make sure your kids stay behind the bars until a chair passes, then start moving towards the loading line. While shuffling towards the load line, simply help to steady your child and move him along. It's sad to see so many parents just leave their kids in the dust. Keep in mind that even if the lift operator stops the machine as soon as he detects a problem, it often takes the chair five feet or more to actually come to a halt. In that distance, someone can still easily be injured. If your kid uses ski poles, make sure they do not have the straps around their wrists. Poles can get caught in the machinery, and it's better to surrender a pole then to be taken along with it.

Loading the Chairs
So you have successfully approached the red "Load Here" sign. Make sure everyones feet are on the line, so that everyone sits at the same time. If one side of the chair gets loaded before the other, a chair can easily swing up and hit the skier still standing. Whether your child is too small for the chair or not, it's possible he will need a hand getting securely onto the chair. Put an arm around him and give him a lift while asking him to hop. As soon as you have both made it onto the chair, make sure your kid scoots his bottom all the way back into the chair. Put the bar down, and remind your little skier to keep their tips up so they don't lose a ski.

Enjoying the Ride
Surprisingly, this is probably the safest part of the chairlift experience. Make sure your child is sitting all the way back in the chair, and discourage them from leaning, fidgeting, and wiggling. Make sure the bar is down. Seems like a no brainer, right? Too many kids that I see riding lifts solo on the mountain don't put their bar down. This is a bad habit that parents need to squash out. Lastly, as stated before, help to ease your kid's nerves by engaging them in simple and fun conversation.

Unloading from the Chair
Make sure the bar is up in plenty of time, so you aren't struggling with it at the last second. Skiers keep your tips up, boarders keep your board pointed straight. Parent, let your kid hop off a second or two before you, to ensure they down take the ride all the way around (it happens a lot.) Once you have made it down the exit ramp, move out of the way! It will make everyone's lives easier and happier.

Shred safely and stylishly! Thanks for reading, and feel free to add your own safety tips!

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