Another young skier fell from a ski lift, this one on a chair that had a safety bar. Tuesday’s fall in Park City marked at least the third time a skier fell off a chair at a Rocky Mountain ski area in less than a month, and the fourth reported by international news sources.
Deer Valley Resort said the boy fell 20 to 30 feet off Sterling Express chair, a modern detachable lift. Detachable lifts slow down when they pick up and drop off skiers. The boy was with a ski instructor and another young child near the top of the lift, getting ready to push off the chair when the he slipped, reported a Deer Valley spokeswoman. Fortunately he was not seriously injured.
The ski resorts argue that safety bars don’t make a chair lift safer. Alta Ski Area, scene of a December accident, has no lifts equipped with safety bars, and Utah doesn’t require it.
What is not clear about the Park City accident is whether the safety bar had been raised. Since the instructor and young charges are described as “preparing to push off” it is reasonable to assume that the bar had been raised just before the fall. This would clearly inoculate the argument that safety bars do nothing to prevent falls.
At Alta ski area, a 4-year-old girl who fell Dec. 18 from a chair lift was found face-down in the snow and not breathing when ski patrol arrived. She made a full recovery days later at a hospital.
On Dec. 30, another boy fell off a chair lift at Snow King Resort in Jackson, Wyo.
The Utah Department of Transportation regulates the operation and safety of ski lifts, but officials say they never felt the need to mandate safety bars. In Colorado, ski area operators are not required to install safety bars on chairs either. And the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board is responsible for overseeing the safe operation of ski lifts as provided by statute.