After hearing about a chairlift accident in Colorado last winter, Larisa Wilder was moved to action. So this mother of young children created a group called Parents for Safe Skiing.
In the course of doing research, Wilder discovered something that surprised her.
“We quickly learned that every child is legally responsible for his or her own safety at ski resorts,” she explains.
In response, one of the first steps Parents for Safe Skiing took was to create brightly colored helmet stickers, directing lift operators, and everyone else riding a lift with a child, to do three things:
1. Assist the child in loading.
2. Scoop the child onto the lift.
3. Lower the safety bar for the child.
Once the action began it was off to the races. However the task of keeping kids safe is really up the parents. With that being said here are my tips from one parent to another on how to heel you kids safe:
On the Lift
In addition to helping your child onto the chairlift when necessary, always use the safety bar, even when it’s not mandatory. Just be sure to ask before lowering the bar. You don’t want to inadvertently hurt or jostle someone.
Another smart suggestion — which is in place at Breckenridge and Powderhorn Mountain Resort (both in Colorado) — is to have volunteers or extra ski instructors wait at the lift to ride
with unaccompanied children in lessons. If your resort doesn’t do this, ask them how you can make this happen.
Melanie Racine is a ski mom who has been outpaced by her rapidly improving 13-year-old son. While lessons and clinics fill a need for supervised skiing, there are times when her son just wants to explore and free ski.
Racine suggests the creation of resort-sponsored supervised ski groups.
As she pictures it, these groups would “cost less than a lesson and would include an adult chaperoning a small group of children or teens of comparable skill.” The chaperone would ensure that no one gets lost, ends up on the wrong run, or skis and rides in an unsafe manner.
In the same vein, other parents suggest ”kid-friendly” zones with on-duty ski patrol to enforce safety, and teaching runs reserved for instructors with groups of kids to help avoid confusion with other guests.
Know the Rules
Parents know that the best way to enhance skiing safety is to raise safe skiers.
Melissa Dressel Pashcke teaches her children “to be defensive, mindful skiers, aware of etiquette and right-of-way.”
Be sure to review the FIS Rules of Conduct with your children at the beginning of every season and throughout the winter. Talk about how to respond correctly in different situations, and make sure they understand why safety is important.
Eryn Kaiser recommends putting kids in lessons, not just to learn basic skills but to learn safety rules and proper skiing behavior.
“My kids are 100 times safer in ski programs than with me,” she shares. “They teach me safety guidelines for skiing and are very aware skiers. I would rather have them in a ski lesson or clinic, than not.”
Keep Your Child in Front of You
A mistake parents often make is having their kids ski behind them.
While you may see instructors leading groups of tots down the mountain, this is not something you should emulate. Instead, stay behind where you can keep a close watch on your child and surrounding skiers. This helps to keep everyone safe, and if your child falls, you’re right there to help her up.
Additionally, be smart about when and where you ski. Choose days and times that are less crowded and chose runs that attract fewer people. The more room you have, the more relaxed and happy everyone will be.
If you’re enrolling children in lessons or clinics this winter, quiz the ski and ride school about safety.
Find out the ski school’s policies regarding children riding alone on chairlifts and whether or not chairlift operators are trained to help kids onto the lift. If the ski and ride school doesn’t have a policy, encourage them to develop procedures to keep kids safe.
Likewise, if you’re in the lift line and you need help getting your child onto the chairlift, just ask. Lift operators want to help you and it’s important for them to recognize that children sometimes need assistance or for the lift to be slowed.
Ski resort staff want families to be safe and to enjoy skiing and snowboarding. They want to help and your questions can help them do a better job!
What are you best tips for keeping kids safe on the mountain?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Hailing from Colorado (USA) Kristen Lummis, or as she is better known, the Brave Ski Mom, is an avid skier and true family mum in every sense of the word. www.braveskimom.com