Long story short, my husband, Paul, and I had a miscommuncation while skiing in Vermont last weekend with the boys. At a crossroads of many paths, I skied off with our 10 year old, thinking Paul was following behind with our 8 year old. But, all of a sudden, Paul appeared at the top of our chosen trail, with no Ben. "I thought he was with you," he said. "I thought he was with you," I replied, feeling huge amounts of fear. All I could think was: what if he veered onto a Black Diamond and had fallen, and was stuck somewhere alone, scared? There were so many choices as to where he could've gone...how long would it take to find him? He knows our home phone number but not our cell phone numbers. My cell phone wasn't even charged. I started to panic. My husband thought he might have gone ahead of us, so, Sam and I skied down a bit and waited while Paul ran back up to the crossroads. Thankfully, Ben was there, talking to a mountain employee, doing exactly what he should have done, in that situation. The whole episode lasted only about 10 minutes but it rattled me to the core. The boys are getting bigger now. There is more risk for this happening. And, we hadn't prepared for it at all. We headed back to our hotel room and made a plan. First, we charged our phones and made sure all were working properly. Then, we put notes in the boys' pockets with all cell phone numbers and instructed them to, just as Ben had, find an employee in a blue jacket and call us. We also devised a meeting point.
As I was thinking about this blog post, I called a friend at Mount Snow, Communications Manager Dave Meeker. He consulted with the staff and came up with these suggestions, as well:
*Designate a specific meeting area in the event the family gets unintentionally separated. We usually recommend inside the Clocktower Building near guest services because it tends to not be as crowded and there are folks there who can help facilitate communication, like paging someone over the resort intercom system. Another place is the fireplace inside the Main Base Lodge.
*Look for the folks in the bright green jackets. These are our friendly ambassadors who are ever present on the mountain as well as on foot throughout our base areas. They are especially helpful if you get separated on the mountain and are unfamiliar with how to get back down to your designated meeting spot. They will either point you in the right direction or lead you to where you need to go.
*Use tools of communication. If your child is old enough to have a cell phone, make sure it’s fully charged at the start of the day. It is always good to plug in important phone numbers for the resort like guest services and base first aid. Other options include walkabout walkie talkies. They are inexpensive, light weight and can be great tools to keep everyone in touch.
**Stay on a schedule: If your kids are old enough to go ski by themselves, set a specific time and place to meet for lunch and stick to it.
* Parents, lead the way: Often times when kids get lost it’s because they have a need for speed and blow right by their parents on the trail without them seeing, so when the parent stops on the side of the trail to regroup there is no on behind them. That being said, it is always good practice to stop at least once during your run down the mountain to regroup. It is good for your legs and keeps everyone together. Always stop on side of the trail, where you are visible to uphill skiers. Never stop in the middle of a trail or on the other side of a pitch where uphill skiers cannot see you.
*Familiarize yourself with the trail map beforehand if you’ve never been to Mount Snow. Also, carry a trail map with you for quick reference. They are compact in size and have contact info on them.
What plans do you make before you hit the mountain? Let us know...and, happy trails!