Children's Learning Center - Children and instructor safely riding the chairlift
Chairlift Safety
Sugar Bowl and You...Partners in Safety!

We want all our guests to have a safe and enjoyable mountain adventure. By paying attention at all times and respecting operator instructions, we can do just that. When loading, always grab chair as it approaches. Sit firmly in chair, facing forward. If not properly seated, alert lift operator immediately. Always lower the bar, and let your fellow riders know it's being lowered. Don't adjust gear or lean on bar for any reason. Say "bar up" prior to raising bar. Unload safely and clear off ramp area immediately. Obey all posted and verbal instructions, and please familiarize yourself with our Chairlift Safety Initiative.


Sugar Bowl Chairlift Safety Initiative ►

NSAA Kids on Lifts Program ►

Chairlift Safety - smiling child on a chair lift

In December of 2011 our community suffered a great loss. John Marco Henderson, age 7, died after falling from the Mt. Lincoln chairlift while skiing with the Sugar Bowl Ski Team. Over the past 10 months, Sugar Bowl Corporation and Sugar Bowl Ski Team have worked with John’s parents to investigate how this accident occurred and determine what steps could be taken to prevent a similar tragedy. At Sugar Bowl, safety remains our highest priority.

Numerous interviews were conducted during the investigation. While many people recalled fragments of the accident, there were conflicting accounts and few direct eyewitnesses. As a result, we cannot state with certainty, exactly what happened. We do know that John was on the chair with two other members of the Sugar Bowl Ski Team and that their coach allowed them to load without supervision. We also believe the chair lift restraint bar was not lowered properly at the loading terminal and that children of this age were unable to lower the bar themselves. We found no evidence of horseplay or foul play. Ultimately our safety practices were insufficient to prevent this tragedy.

As a result of this tragedy, we reviewed existing policies, procedures and best practices relating to the loading, riding and unloading of the chairlifts at Sugar Bowl. We have implemented a comprehensive Safety Program that includes the following changes: restraining bars will be lowered for all minors under 51 inches in height (including equipment); increased adult supervision of children in the ski school and on ski team; and installation of strategically placed cameras on the majority of chairlifts to continuously monitor and improve chairlift loading practices. The Safety Program will be distributed widely and is available on the Sugar Bowl website.

Sugar Bowl is committed to pursuing the highest safety standards and we are working with the National Ski Areas Association and the California Ski Industry Association to increase chairlift safety awareness throughout the nation. The Board of Directors, management and entire staff of Sugar Bowl Resort and the Sugar Bowl Ski Team are dedicated to the continued focus on and development of a culture of safety. We look forward to feedback and assistance from our entire community in this effort.

thumbnail of john john's way
John John's Way, is a run on Disney named in John Henderson's honor.


Goals and Guiding Principles:

Chairlift Instructions - to load hold poles in one hand - look over shoulder - grasp chair as is approaches - sit on the spot - alert the operator if not seated properly -Chair Riding - say bar down when lowering bar - sit firmly in chair - no horeseplay - to unload - say bar up - stand up at unload sign - clear ramp - riders under 51 inches tall should ride with an adult 1. Implement and maintain state of the art chairlift and ski safety standards, policies and practices with specific focus on the supervision of all children under 51 inches in height (including equipment).

2. Implement and maintain comprehensive training to Sugar Bowl Corporation and Ski Team Foundation employees regarding chairlift and ski safety policies.

3. Provide education and information to Sugar Bowl guests regarding chairlift safety.

4. Regularly monitor and analyze employee compliance with safety standards and policies.

5. Thoroughly evaluate, analyze and investigate chairlift incidents which result in injuries requiring patrol assistance.

6. Regularly review videotape of the chairlift-loading process to identify potential areas for improvement and best practices related to chairlift loading and safety.

7. Promote a culture of safety among all employees and guests of Sugar Bowl.

8. Share best practices and lessons learned with other ski areas and organizations that promote ski and rider safety.

Safety Initiative:

Beginning in the 2012/2013 ski season (and moving forward), Sugar Bowl implemented the following safety program:

1. Cameras: Strategically placed web-based cameras were installed at the loading terminals of most chairlifts to capture the loading process and monitor lift operator practices and guest conduct. The lift loading process is monitored by the dispatch office and recorded for safety and training purposes. The data is maintained for a minimum of 72 hours unless there is a lift loading incident resulting in an injury requiring ski patrol assistance. In the event of such an incident, the recorded data will be maintained by Sugar Bowl for at least two years. Ongoing data collection and analysis will occur to identify areas for safety improvement.

2. Seat Targets: Seat targets were placed on all seats of Sugar Bowl chairlifts to help guide riders to the recommended position.

3. Under 51” Program: The Under 51” program requires that lift operators lower the restraining bar for all riders under 51” even if they are riding with an adult. The 51” height guideline includes ski/snowboard equipment.

4. Lift Operator Training: Lift Operators receive monthly training on chairlift safety and periodic feedback on their individual safety practices.

5. Sugar Bowl Mountain Sports Learning Center: Children ages 4 and 5 are placed in lessons with a 3:1 student to instructor ratio (this 3:1 ratio does not apply to lessons where chairlifts are not utilized by students). All day and group lessons offering a 3:1 student to instructor ratio are available for children ages 6 to 12. Students receive chairlift safety education at the beginning of each lesson.

6. Sugar Bowl Ski Team Coach Training: All ski team coaches receive training that includes chairlift safety training, four times annually.

7. Ski Team Chairlift Protocol: Sugar Bowl Ski Team Mini-Mites (generally 4 year olds) and Mighty Mites (generally 5 and 6 year olds) ride the chair with an adult, coach or qualified team sweeper.

8. Supervised Load: Sugar Bowl Ski Team Development Team 1 members (generally ages 7 and 8) have a “supervised load” by a coach. A “supervised load” means that a coach or a trained adult will observe each ski team member load onto the chairlift.

9. Ski Team Training: Ski team members receive specific and repeated training on chairlift safety. This training will be conducted at least once per month.

10. Educational Program: Sugar Bowl implemented and maintains a chairlift safety and educational program for Sugar Bowl guests.

11. Chairlift Incident Investigation: Sugar Bowl established and maintains a mechanism for thorough, timely investigation and analysis of chairlift incidents which result in injuries requiring patrol assistance.

12. Chairlift Safety Promotion: Sugar Bowl and the SBSTF assisted the National Ski Area Association (NSAA) in promoting the John Henderson Chairlift Safety Initiative when it launches later this season.

13. Outreach: Sugar Bowl will continue its outreach to other resorts, the NSAA and the CSIA to discuss and share best practices with regard to chairlift safety.

Chair Bear - Chair lift safety starts with you - Bear be endgaged alert and ready
Hey kids, chairlift safety starts with you! Always remember to do what the CHAIR B.E.A.R. says, and stay safe and have fun!
Phone: (530) 426-9000
Snow Phone: (530) 426-1111
Address: 629 Sugar Bowl Road, Norden CA 95724
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