POSTED 6:34 PM, FEBRUARY 27, 2019, BY DEBORAH TAKAHARA,
BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. -- A group of local mothers has started a petition to improve safety for children in ski school at Eldora Mountain Resort.
On Sunday, a 6-year-old girl fell nearly 30 feet from a ski lift. Leigh Fiske said she has been voicing her concerns about safety issues to management at Eldora for weeks, but she was told they would not change their policy. She said Sunday’s incident shines a light on the problem.
Larisa Wilder helped start the petition.“Putting a child on a lift unattended is not an inherent risk of skiing. That is a choice being made by people at Eldora," said Wilder.
The mothers hope to put pressure on Eldora to change the way they do things.
“We want to be reasonable. Ski school starts tomorrow at 9 a.m. and we would like tomorrow at 9 a.m. is no child under 6 is allowed on a lift without an adult," Wilder said.
"Immediately, we are asking for a change to their policy that no child under six or 48 inches rides without an adult present. And in the long term, we are asking they have good safety bars on all their lifts, which they currently do not," Fiske said.
They said Eldora's current policy says kids in ski school who are under the age of 6 will ride with an adult "if one is available." The moms say that's not good enough.
“The problem with the current policy is the small children should ride with an adult if available, which basically means you have no policy. The instructor can say, 'You have no adult available, so up we send them,'" Fiske said.
Stacey Huber and Andrea Balogh signed the petition. Their 6-year-old daughter was on the chair lift with the girl who fell off Sunday.
“She said when they got on, her friend was not on properly and the lift kept going and it didn’t stop. And when she fell, she looked down and could see her helmet and I could see her crying, hear her crying for her mother. She was trying to reach out to hold on to her. Our daughter said she was holding onto the arm of the lift and she just couldn’t hold on any longer," Huber said.
“For me, it seems Eldora is in a reactive state instead of proactive state. Hopefully, with this petition, they will reevaluate their safety protocols," Balogh said.
When asked if they would continue with lessons this weekend at Eldora, Balough said, “Yes, but I think we will have some tough questions for them. You know we love Eldora, we’ve loved our experience thus far."
Long term, the moms would all like to see stricter regulations across the entire industry.
“Our playgrounds, our swimming pools are regulated. My son is a fantastic swimmer and he can't go down the water slide because he is under 48 inches. But he can go on a lift 30 feet in the air without a safety bar or adult. I find that shocking," Wilder said.
They say the response to their petition has been overwhelming, and they hope voicing their concerns together will make a difference.
“We love Eldora. This is our local mountain. We feel strongly about our children learning to ski there, but we want them to be safe," Wilder said.
On Wednesday evening, Eldora Ski Resort sent the following statement to FOX31 and Channel 2:
"Eldora is proud to be a family-friendly mountain. Many of the staff at Eldora are parents themselves whose kids are growing up, or have grown up, learning to ski or ride at the resort. Thousands of kids enjoy our ski and ride school programs each year. What happened on Sunday involving a six-year-old-female guest, who was enrolled in ski and ride school when she fell approximately 29 feet from a carrier on Eldora’s Sundance chairlift, is extremely rare.
We take safety seriously, from the way we train our teams to the way we operate the resort. As such, and in light of Sunday’s incident, we are reviewing all of our policies and procedures related to children on lifts. We will continue to take steps that ensure Eldora remains a safe and great place to learn.
Our thoughts are with the family and we hope for a speedy recovery. If you are interested, we encourage you to visit the National Ski Area Association’s website, KidsOnLifts.org, to learn more about safety for children on lifts."