Even though most Colorado ski accidents happen when skiers go down the mountains, there have been incidents where they are hurt going up. Newcomers and people with a fear of heights can find chairlifts very intimidating as there aren’t as many restraints as you would find in a car seat or a theme park attraction. One malfunction or wrong move could result in a 25 foot drop that injures or kills you.
However, most skiers shouldn’t have to worry too much about falling from a chairlift breakdown. A study from the National Ski Areas Association reveals that 86 percent of chairlift falls are from rider error. Any incidents where a skier falls due to a malfunction still occur, but are few and far between. Both experienced and new skiers should instead focus more on their own personal chairlift safety precautions to avoid committing the following mistakes:
Not looking behind
Most skiers get a general sense of how fast the lift is supposed to go just by looking at it. When it’s their turn, they step up to the line and crouch at the moment where they expect the seat to arrive right next to their rear.
The main issue with not looking behind is that chairlifts can have inconsistent speeds. You never know if the exit on top decided to slow it down to help someone get off easier or if they need to stop it to check something. Mistiming your crouch could lead you to fall down and hit your head on the seat or for the chair to sweep your legs.
Not keeping your back and one arm open
If you’re carrying a backpack on the mountain, put it on your lap when you are on the chairlift. The additional space it takes up greatly increases your chances of falling off the lift. Either hold it in one of your hands or wear it backwards when you are getting on.
You also need to make sure at least one arm can help you get on the chairlift to begin with. Relying on sitting at the right time and scooting back alone isn’t enough. If you’re carrying ski poles with you, have one arm hold on to both of them. Loose straps and awkward grips are never a good combination for the chairlift.
Not balancing the weight
On particularly windy days, the chairs are vulnerable to swaying from side to side. Since Colorado’s winter months have no shortage of gusty periods, you need to make sure there isn’t too much weight on one side of the seat.
This primarily depends on how many people are on the seat. If you are alone or if you have a small child with you, you should sit in the middle so it stays perfectly centered. Teenagers and adults should sit on opposite ends to try to avoid throwing the weight off-balance.
If you or a loved one is new to skiing, consider warning the lift operator in advance so they can slow down the chairs for you to sit down at a comfortable speed. Be sure to keep your eyes out when entering or exiting the lift so you do not run into other skiers that may have problems with the process.