Is Wearing a Backpack on the Ski Lift Dangerous?
Skiers discuss many controversial topics, such as whether Pit Vipers are pretentious or awesome, where the best powder stashes are, and which chair lift will get you to the top quickest. Recently, another point of contention has offered its hat into the ring: whether or not you should wear a backpack on a ski lift.
Ski Backpack Benefits
The most obvious benefit to wearing a backpack while skiing is that you can store your essentials (and maybe a few non-essentials) for the day. If you are headed out for a full day of skiing, you are going to need a water bottle, an extra layer, a snack, your lunch, your wallet, phone, and some space to store your layers in case it warms up.
We have all had days where we don’t bring a backpack: you find yourself stopping at a lodge three times to get water, and you end up buying a Snickers, hot chocolate, chili, and pizza. And it all only cost you $76 and you just waited in line for 45 minutes. No biggie. But instead, if you do bring a backpack, you end up staying hydrated, get in way more skiing time, and you spend way less money. At this point, a backpack is sounding essential, yes?
However, there is a huge, dangerous downside to wearing a backpack while skiing. So much so that some ski resorts have made policies around wearing backpacks on lifts. You see, backpacks can get caught on chairlifts, whether through a loose or dangling strap, or it getting wedged into the seat somehow. This is a problem because if a backpack gets caught and a person is attached to it, they can end up being pulled by the chairlift, get dangled by their attached straps, or even fall from a great height to the ground.
In fact, in the last few years, this problem has become seemingly more prevalent. In 2017, a man at Arapahoe Basin nearly died by being hung from a chairlift by his caught backpack. That same year, two young children at Sundance Mountain Resort dangled from chairlifts by backpacks within three weeks of each other. These terrifying accidents have even led to death: a 14 year old boy was strangled by his pack in Chatel, France. These instances alone are enough to scare someone away from wearing a pack on a lift.
What can you do?
Fortunately, there are a few easy fixes to have the best of both worlds: you can wear a backpack and stay safe, as long as you do one of the following:
Take your backpack off and put it on your lap while you are on a lift.
This easy fix can keep your backpack from getting caught easily, and even if it does get caught, you can just let go and you won’t get stuck on the lift with it. Plus, wearing a backpack on a lift can be uncomfortable, as it often pushes people closer than they prefer to the edge of the seat. It’s an all around win! Make sure you fully unbuckle all of the straps and take the backpack off, or else this method won’t work effectively.
Buy a backpack that is specifically designed for front country skiing.
Backpacks that are designed for front country skiing have minimal straps on them and fit sleekly on your body, so as not to get caught.
Buy a ski vest.
Ski vests are a huge trend right now, as people are beginning to realize that they keep the weight closer to your body (providing more balance than a backpack), and they aren’t dangerous on chairlifts. Plus, they look really cool!
You can totally rock a backpack on the mountain (and if you like to be prepared, you should rock a backpack on the mountain). However, if you are going to do so, be prepared to make adjustments when you get on the lift in order to keep yourself out of harm’s way.