Safety Bar Talk: Up, Down, When Does it Matter?

Bar up or bar down? image: frozen movie

The never ending debate: bar up or bar down? People insist bar up, others say bar down– some simply ask, “when is the bar open?” Depending on the resort and the terrain, the preference can change.  Whatever you do, make sure you call it out before slamming the bar down on someone’s head.

Strangely enough, the debate of the bar is quite an American thing.  Europeans are known to put the bar down without question; it’s part of the daily routine. Maybe the European Alps are so gnarly, the bar is more welcome.

austrian bar
Equipped with a wind guard and foot rests, you’ll want the bar down on this Austrian ski lift. Image: Jagdhaus Grubhof

So what makes us Americans so weird about it?  People may have different opinions, but we know that anyone who has been on Red Dog at Squaw Valley has thought about putting the bar down.

 “Exceptions are wind, drinking beers, kids and Red Dog.” – Leah Scurto

Resorts have implemented genius ways to encourage the use of the bar.  From electronic screens telling you current conditions, to foot rests and wind guards, putting the bar down is more and more inviting.  One state, Vermont, actually requires that you use the bar. We have definitely come a long way from T-bars and rope tows.

tech bar
Updates on conditions, lifts, and much more could be at your fingertips on a chairlift. Would that make you put the bar down? Image: J2ski

But is the bar actually safe? Or does it only give you a sense of comfort?

According to NSAA’s Lift Safety Fact Sheet, 71% of all falls from lifts in Colorado occurred on chairlifts that had a restraint bar.   Furthermore, in those 11 seasons from 2001-2011, 86% of all falls were due to skier error.  This is where the responsibility code comes into play.  No matter how experienced you are, putting down the bar isn’t a bad idea in certain instances.  High winds, tall lift towers and the occasional young rider should encourage some sort of safety awareness.

“Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.” – NSAA

Here’s a couple chairlifts that will make you want to put the bar down: