Why do so many people fall off chairlifts?
It seems like such a simple thing.
Get on the chairlift, put the safety bar down and continue your journey to its exit point.
But a recent incident this month in Whistler and a raft of falls from chairlifts last season has me concerned.
I’m not talking about the fumbles, bumbles and spills at the entry or exit points when someone is new to riding chairlifts.
These are inevitable. Lifties can help and the consequences usually when you are on solid ground generally aren’t too severe.
But if you come a cropper while a chairlift is in full motion – you’re going to have a problem.
In the most recent significant incident at Whistler a 14 year-old snowboarder somehow found himself dangling from the Emerald Chair.
It looked like staff did an amazing job in quickly getting a fireman’s net under where he was grimly, I assume, holding on.
But the fall was still an eight-metre one and reports say he was taken to hospital with a back injury.
As the season in many places is only a few weeks old and there haven’t been any big holidays, I’m a little worried – particularly after reading about some kind of accident on chairlifts almost every other week last season including:
- A 10 year-old boy falling 14 metres and breaking his leg in Lake Louise
- Another incident in Whistler with an 11 year-old
- An 11 year-old falling and badly hurting himself at Ragged Mountain, New Hampshire
- A 7 year-old saved from a big fall in Lake Ridge, Ontario
- An 8 year-old girl injured in Squaw Valley
And these are just some of them.
The key thing that stands out, at least in all these incidents, is that it is kids involved.
What’s the solution?
Should say kids under 12 have to ride with an adult (even that didn’t work in some of these instances)? Better education about riding chairlifts from the resorts? More emphasis on actually putting the restraining device down? More parental/guardian involvement? Or do we just assume these things will happen from time to time because kids are being kids.
The other thing is that it seems to be a largely North American occurrence.
I don’t know whether that is just anecdotally, or such incidents simply get reported more there but you simply don’t read about nearly as many falls in Europe or admittedly the much smaller riding population in places such as Australia.
Mind you, chairs have actually been known to fall off down under (sans passengers) while there was also this incident in NZ last season involving an 11 year-old boy. The father said he did not have time to pull the bar down – but have a look at where it happened and you be the judge.
While it’s not all doom and gloom – this incident of a snowboarder attaching himself to a chair a few weeks back did give me a chuckle – the consequences can be particularly serious.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers here but if nothing else the bottom line is this: Put the bloody bar down!