Yesterday I found the NSAA’s new website www.kidsonlifts.org. The educational push of proper chair lift use has started, and we are thrilled.
“Kids On Lifts” is a very cool site with kid friendly videos and safety pointers. Through e-mail exchange with Bob Roberts, President of the California Ski Industry Association, and Emily Griffith, Director of Member Services for the National Ski Areas Association, I learned that discussion of proper ski lift use was long in the works. This particular initiative, “Kids On Lifts”, began in the Spring of 2012.
The website repeatedly instructs that young passengers sit all the way back on the chairseat, or “back to back.” The riders should never lean forward or rest on the restraint bar. Further that because young ski school students will often ride with another student (or solo- my observation) instead of an instructor or an adult, it is absolutely critical that parents discuss chair lift responsibility with their children.
The “Kids On Lifts” website is a good starting point to initiate discussion of chair lift safety with your child. I suggest that you also have a conversation with the Ski School Supervisors, Instructors and Lift Operators to ensure the proper teaching of loading and riding techniques. The professionals that teach our children the ski skills to get them down the hill should also assist the parents in teaching the kids how to safely get up the hill.
The Kids On Lifts Logo is downloadable here.
How could I not share this AP News photo of Santas hitting the slopes at the Sunday River Resort in Maine in support of Bethel Rotary‘s annual holiday toy drive? Santa uses a safety bar!
I’ve been told that the safety bar discussion is gaining traction nationally. We should see an educational push supported by the National Ski Areas Association and the California Ski Industry Association enacted perhaps as early as this season. The “Kids on Lifts” program includes loading guidelines and kid-friendly seat targets. I would love if you would let me know if you notice increased chairlift safety programs at your local resorts.
I can’t tell you how thrilled this makes our family. We look forward to the day that the ANSI B77 standards are updated to include safety restraints on chairlifts.
My last entry regarding our push to change ski lift standards talked of our efforts for legislative change. In August of 2011 I submitted our proposed Keely’s Law to the office of Assemblyman Morrell and assumed change was on its way.
Ski season started and the Sugar Bowl fall with resulting fatality of a seven year old was reported. We had wrongly assumed that our draft bill would provide notice of dangers and prevent these types of accidents from occurring. I followed up with Morrell’s staff and was advised they would not be pushing our bill through as their priorities were economic related bills and transparency though they would look at co-sponsoring a bill if we could find another legislator to push it through.
And the rose-colored glasses that somehow have found a permanent place on my head were yet again fogged over. We quickly attempted to find another local politician to assist. Though meeting with wonderful staff members and gathering advice, campaigning and the realities of party politics in our state were obstacles.
So we reached out to consumer and industry groups and were embraced by both. The first to respond was the California Ski and Snowboard Safety Organization (CSSSO). At a time when we were feeling all alone in our efforts we were told, “You are NOT alone.” This meant so very much. They offered research tools along with the SnowSport Safety Foundation and networking with Northern California legislators and media with a history of advocating for safety requirements in winter sports. This time we acted trepidly in our push for a legislative change as we realized that perhaps that might not be the best approach when shooting right out of the gate.
With legislative assistance on hold we met with the California Ski Industry Association. Craig, Keely and I sat at a table and presented our case. Our introduction? We are a skiing family and love the resorts. Families are big business for resorts. How can we make it safer for the children and prevent another family from experiencing what we and many others have gone through because of ski lifts that don’t properly fit a child? How can we have a positive impact on families and resorts?
The meeting solidified our desire to create an industry change in ski lift safety through an industry standards change as who better to study, analyze, update a safety standard than those within the industry itself? The California Ski Industry Association agreed.
While seeking a change all agree that the education of proper loading of children on ski lifts should be emphasized to resort employees and patrons. “Back to Back” needs to be a mantra. Though a child with his/her back sitting against the back of a lift chair is quite uncomfortable with the weight of their ski equipment making riding up a difficult experience since their knees do not bend at the end of the bench like an adult causing their legs to stick straight out; and further that they can’t quite scoot back until they are already lifted at a height allowing for the back tip of their skis to not hit the ground below- all this is a necessary precaution pending restraining devices that would assist the safe transporting of children up a ski hill.
Last year Keely was assigned a science project, and she decided to test restraints on ski lifts. She built a chair out of a hanger wire, used Barbie as the test model, and subjected Barbie to the force of gravity by hanging a paper basket from her toes and slowly adding marbles to this basket.
Barbie without restraints fell with little force subjected. Barbie with a bar restraint was propelled forward but was deterred from a fall by the bar. Barbie with a restraint belt fared the best with little or no movement no matter the force.
It will be interesting to see how the design of chairs will change in decades to come.
Since our local Assemblyman Mike Morrell responded to Keely’s letters seeking ski lift safety requirements we decided to start our efforts of change with him. It seemed logical to us to start with a politician as wouldn’t he have connections and ability to direct efforts or at least send us to someone who could? And I sincerely hoped that once the ball got rolling for change that the nightmares I have during ski season would cease- those nightmares that we are not doing enough to prevent another family from experiencing what we experienced. It is unfortunate that our eyes are now wide open.
Gearing up for the meeting in June of 2011 I decided to research ski lift accidents, standards and regulations. This was quite difficult not only because there is little information required to be reported and little in the way of regulations in this area, but it required me to be constantly focused on the accident that almost took Keely from us. Many times it seemed like looking for that needle in a haystack for who were we even try to present our persuasions. The US Forest Service? The State? The Counties? Those bodies in charge of maintenance and safety like CalOSHA? The Ski Industry? My optimistic self assumed that the politician would be all-knowing and tell us exactly that answer or better yet just take our idea and run like the wind with it. Your laughter is acknowledged. And here’s a visual to accompany that laughter- we took the entire family including the two year old to our first meeting with a politician as this was a big deal for us.
I am so ever thankful for that first meeting as Assemblyman Morrell was indeed helpful in helping us to focus on what it was we truly sought. We don’t want to impede on the individual’s choice nor impose requirements on the industry that would not be business friendly (we love the ski industry as we are a skiing family). He helped us to outline our argument and then sent us on our way to actually write a draft of the legislation we sought.
After three months of research in preparation of our meeting including a powerpoint presentation whose background music alone took me two months to choose (Clint Mansell’s “Lux Aeterna” depicts exactly how it feels as a parent to watch your child on life support) I now had until the first week of August 2011 to submit a proposed Bill to Morrell’s office. As a layperson how exactly is that written? We had assumed that was the purpose of a legislative staff. To this day I have no idea if what I drafted is anywhere close to what was typical and will post for your analysis.
Craig looked at me as we walked out of the meeting. I said, “Craig this could be huge. This would be industry altering.” He looked at me and replied, “Go big or go home.” We both agreed there is a need to focus on children’s safety in the sport of skiing and, thus, the ball began to roll.
It hasn’t always been a straight path but it seems as if all is happening as it should. The need to gather support will be a future installment including why we have opted not to pursue legislative action but seek a standards change within the ski industry.