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

Katy Shipley |
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:


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10 thoughts on “Safety Bar Talk: Up, Down, When Does it Matter?

  1. The weirdest experience skiing in US (there were a few more contenders) was a chairlift without a bar. Seriously, WTF is wrong with you?

    1. Hold on to the chair ?
      Don’t fall off ?
      Ride safely ?
      Pay attention to what you are doing ?
      Don’t fall off the chair ?
      I grew up on fixed grip chairs , no safety bar , hold on and don’t fall off ?
      Stupid people fall off .

  2. Only stupid people fall off chairlifts !
    I have been skiing and riding chairlifts for over 40 years and have never come close to falling off a chairlift. Follow The responsibility code and load and unload safely !!!!! Safety bars don’t prevent people from falling off chairlifts, watch the video of the kid at squaw get pulled under the safety bar by the avalanche on KT 22 .

  3. Strange how one would be opposed to putting the bar down.
    And only stupid people fall off chairs? Only stupid people say stupid things like that.

  4. It takes us Americans a long time to accept change. I’ve heard the same sort of language from my fellow citizens who:
    -didn’t want to wear a helmet skiing
    -didn’t want to wear a helmet riding a motorcycle,
    -didn’t want to wear a seat belt,
    -don’t want any sort of gun control,
    -don’t want to drive slower on the freeway (I’m guilty of this one),
    -don’t want to accept any government involvement in paying for health care (really, how could things get any worse than what they were?).

  5. The point of the article is whether or not to
    Ride the chair with the bar up or down.
    The people who fall off chair lifts are not
    Paying attention to what is happening around them, texting on their cell phone,etc….. . I have never fallen off a chair lift and never will . I don’t put the bar down because that’s a personal choice , I don’t text on my phone because I don’t carry my cell phone with me. I prefer to experience the outdoors with out artificial distractions. Pay attention to what you are doing and you won’t fall off .
    It’s really that simple, stupid people fall off chair lifts . And yes I am smarter than you. I recently experienced an overbearing boyfriend harass his girlfriend the whole ride up the chair, he is the type that falls off chair lifts . Get off the cell phone and pay attention to what you are doing.

  6. The author contradicts herself by saying that it’s a good idea to put the safety bar down but reports that 86% of the people who fell off chairs was skier error .
    So safety bars don’t prevent people from falling off chair lifts ?
    The skier responsibility code states that you should be able to load and unload safely,
    So falling off sorta means that you don’t know how ride a chair lift safely ?

  7. If you’ve ever been on a chairlift when the e-brake comes on, the chair stops really fast. I’m always worried that my with my slick ski pants, I could slide right off!

  8. Yup I have been on Red Dog many a time and always have the bar down. That is a long way down at its high point. And yes please call it out when you are putting that bar down. Unfortunately way too many foreigners, especially Asians, just pull that bar down when I am not even settled in yet. It has happened way too many times at Squaw, Heavenly, Kirkwood, and Sugar Bowl. I am just assuming it is a language thing but hopefully they will learn the protocol soon.

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