Riding a chair lift is one of the safest forms of transportation available but there are risks involved when people and moving machines come together.
Chairlifts (like escalators) are a unique form of transportation that loads and unloads passengers while it is moving. While riding a chairlift is extremely safe, ski areas cannot entirely prevent incidents or falls from chairlifts. In a 2012 study that reviewed more than ten years of falls from lifts, more than 90 percent of all falls from chairlifts were the result of human error or medical conditions; only 2 percent of falls were related to operator error – your personal behavior, therefore, is critical for overall chairlift safety. Still, falls from chairlifts remain exceedingly rare, and ski resorts nonetheless work diligently and effectively to minimize and mitigate incidents and falls from lifts. Take comfort in knowing that riding chairlifts is an exceptionally safe mode of transportation, and enjoy the ride.
There are various types of lifts such as T-bars, conveyors, gondolas, etc. The loading process and responsibilities are similar regardless of the style of lift.
As a parent you emphasize and educate your child about the overall importance of chairlift safety – being here is an excellent place to start. A good starting point would be to review these materials (videos, FAQs, etc) on this website with your child. At the resort, stand outside the lift line and with your child, watch other skiers and boarders line up and load the chairlift, explaining the process. Stress that your child should ask the lift attendant for assistance any time they need it – lift attendants cannot read minds. Once on the lift, your child should sit back as far as possible and should never lean forward toward the edge of the seat, nor rest on the restraint bar, if the chair has one. A helpful reminder is “back to back” – sit all the way to the back of the chair seat, with your back to the back of the seat. Emphasize to sit still, hang on, and absolutely no horseplay while riding the lift!
There are a number of different, but important, tips and reminders for riding chairlifts – whether you are a child or an adult, beginner or experienced skier or snowboarder. However, there is one over-arching key to keep in mind: It is your responsibility to understand and know how to ride a chairlift safely and to do so. It is so important that it is one of the key provisions enshrined in the industry’s Your Responsibility Code – which has been the industry’s Code of Conduct for decades, and is adopted and incorporated into most state skier safety statutes and laws.
There is no required seating pattern, depending on the size of the chair, it is often best that a parent or adult ride in the middle of a chair seat, with a child and/or children on either side of the adult. Check with your resort, and look for signage, to see if they have a preferred seating arrangement for each lift.
It is important to understand that in most group ski or snowboard lessons, your child will not always ride the chairlift with the instructor. Often, children in ski or snowboard lessons may ride the lift with other students in the group lesson (which vary resort by resort in terms of the number of students in the group lesson), while the instructor is either following behind in the next chair, or perhaps riding in a chair in front of your child with other students. If you would like your child to always ride with an instructor during a lesson, most ski areas provide an option for a private, or semi-private, ski or snowboard lesson. Because young students and beginners in lessons will not always ride with the instructor or adult, it is absolutely critical to stress chairlift responsibility to your child.
When skiing or boarding outside of lessons, your child will ride with the general public, and may be grouped on lifts with adults or children.
Beginner lift users should stand outside the lift line area and watch how other people get on that lift. Once in line, follow those ahead of you, and stop at the “Wait Here” marker. Stop until it is your turn to move into the loading area. Once the people ahead of you have moved forward onto the loading area and their chair has passed in front of you, you and your child should quickly follow behind the previous chair and move to the “Load Here” marker. Wait and watch as the approaching chair circles toward you for loading.
Take your time. You should load onto a chair seat when you are ready. It’s okay to allow an empty chair to go by if you or your child is not prepared to safely load the lift.
Yes, most lifts can be slowed but the chair gradually decelerates similarly to a car approaching a yield sign. Plan ahead as chairlifts do not automatically “stop on a dime”.
Remove your wrist straps and hold your ski poles in one had. Parents, it may be helpful to hold your child’s ski poles, as well as your own, while loading the chairlift.
We know that some people like to carry backpacks, fanny packs, or Camelback-style hydration devices. Before loading, remove and hold packs as straps may become entangled. Holding packs will reduce the likelihood of this happening.
You need to pay careful attention, particularly when loading or unloading a chairlift. While preparing to load or unload a chair seat, it is strongly recommended that you discontinue the use of your phone and music device. Loading and unloading a moving chair seat requires your undivided attention.
No, in fact, many chairlifts do not have restraint bars, but this does not make those chairlifts any less safe. Only a small number of states require that ski areas have restraint bars installed on all chairlifts. Restraint bars are not the “silver bullet” to preventing incidents or falls from lifts – through industry experience and studies, it is well understood that incidents occur on chairlifts with and without restraint bars. Individual behavior and human error – not any restraining device or lack of restraint bar – is usually the contributing factor in most lift incidents.
Sit back, hold on, sit still and NO horseplay!
Your child should sit all the way to the back of the chair seat – “back to back” is one helpful shorthand to help remind your child and understand this concept. If a chair has a restraint bar (and many do not), smaller children may like to lean or rest against the bar, perched near the edge of the chair seat, especially if the restraint bar has a footrest (many lifts with restraint bars do not have footrests attached to the bar). Sitting all the way to the back of the chair seat may not be entirely comfortable with smaller children and their short legs, but it prevents them from slipping off the edge of the seat, or losing their balance.
If you drop something while loading or riding a lift ask ski patrol or the attendant for help once you have unloaded.
Horseplay is absolutely prohibited! As parents, you have a special obligation to instruct this prohibition on horseplay. Please emphasize to your child and their friends to be respectful of other skiers and riders on the lift, as well as below on the mountain. This is for everyone’s safety!
Horseplay can assume may forms – turning around in the chair, throwing snowballs or other items from the lift, trying to touch the lift tower, trying to swing or rock the chair, trying to knock another child’s ski or snowboard off, the list is endless. It is imperative you emphasize to your child to sit still, sit back, and in general, have respect and courtesy for others and for the overall process of loading, riding, and unloading from the lift.
Simply put: be patient, sit back, and hang on. It is not unusual for a chairlift to momentarily slow, pause, or even stop. Often, another person loading or unloading the lift may need assistance. If the lift stops for an extended period and an evacuation is necessary, resort staff will take the appropriate steps. Stay in the chair until notified.
Ski resorts are aware to the needs of disabled skiers and boarders. If you are using such gear as a sit-ski, a guide, or other devices for the disabled contact the ski area in advance to learn about the resort’s policies and practices they have designed to assist and accommodate disabled skiers.
- Prepare to unload as the chair approaches the unloading stations.
- Gently raise the restraining bar, if there is one.
- Check for loose clothing, turn off phones and music devices and keep tips up.
- At the UNLOAD HERE marker, stand up as the flat unloading platform begins to ramp downward.
- Quickly go ahead down the ramp and away from the chair.
- Keep going to keep the unloading ramp clear for others to use.