Unsafe lift operations can lead to serious injuries. Chairlifts are complicated and powerful machines. Skiers and snowboarders are no match for a heavy, fast moving chairlift. Often the safety of skiers and snowboarders is dependent upon lift operators safely and attentively operating their lift.
Lift attendants must be properly trained on lift operations. This includes helping guest safely load and unload a lift as well emergency operations such as stopping a lift as needed to prevent an injury. In addition to being well trained, lift operators must also remain attentive. The operator must continue to pay attention to the lift and the guests using the lift, much as a lifeguard must keep attentive watch over a pool. This can be a challenge when lift operators end up working long shifts in extreme weather. Resorts can help improve attentiveness by scheduling shorter shifts with regular breaks and assigning multiple operators to a given station.
There are things you can do as a boarder or skier to help keep yourself safe when riding a ski lift. The first thing is to make sure you understand how to load and unload the given lift. If you don’t know how to use the lift, ask the operator for help. Next, make sure you are ready. Have you pole straps off of your wrists and hold you poles in one hand. Secure any loose or dangling straps or clothing. Consider removing your backpack if you have one and carrying it in front of you – again check for dangling straps. Move out expeditiously onto the boarding area when directed by the lift operator. Look behind you and to the inside of the lift and watch it approach you. As the chair approaches, prepare to sit and grasp the chair. Keep you ski tips up as the chair begins to carry you up the hill so that they don’t catch the snow and drag you off. Finally, once away from the terminal, put down the chair’s restraining bar. Finally, if you need extra time, or you are boarding with small children, don’t be afraid to ask the operator to slow the lift and/or assist you with boarding.
Lift operations generally fall outside ski resort immunity laws that protect the resorts from injuries caused by natural conditions. However, the skier responsibility code does put a duty on skiers and boarders to know how to safely ride a lift before boarding it. If you have been injured on a ski lift, give me a call.
Be safe out there and have a great time on the mountain!
Here’s some further reading on the topic: