DC Group Trip Planning
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5 users
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(Anonymous)
September 2, 2003
I'm starting to look into a group trip in the DC area and have narrowed it own to two resorts (neither very impressive, I know - but you make do when it involves a long bus ride with kids). It's gonna be either Liberty or Whitetail, and I was just wondering if anyone had any experience planning group trips to either of these sites.

If so, how'd they work out? Was it easy enough? How much did they cost? Any other info you have would be appreciated.

Thanks.

PhysicsMan
September 2, 2003
Member since 11/20/2001
218 posts
With respect to your question about which of the local ski areas is best for your group, at the risk of differing with other participants on DCski (at least one of whom teaches at Liberty), I would definitely opt for Whitetail, not Liberty. I think WT has much better terrain at all levels, has particularly good beginner and novice trails for teaching, has more total terrain, and is less crowded. The negative is that it is a slightly (10 min?) longer ride from DC.

However, there is an even more important issue about leading childrens' ski trips: PLEASE make sure this doesn't happen to anyone in your group:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A52338-2003Jan13.html

(scroll down to the 4th article on the pg, "Boy, 12, Dies in Ski Accident in Pa.")

or take a look at on-line discussions about this accident:

http://www.epicski.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=2;t=004205#000000
http://www.dcski.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/000302.html

This accident happened to a local kid just last season. He had skied a few times before and was on a very wide novice trail at Whitetail. Most non-skiers and recreational skiers would never even think to worry about someone like him on such an easy part of the mountain.

Although I don't know definitively what caused this particular accident, in most cases such accidents are almost always caused by either:

(1) An absurd degree of overconfidence in one's skiing ability. Such people show off by going too fast, going on trails that are too steep for them, etc.. This usually is what happens to young males, 10 to 25 y.o., especially when under peer pressure.

(2) A person without previous proper ski instruction doesn't know how to turn properly, gets going too fast, is too frightened to sit down, and continually picks up speed until they finally fall. This often happens to the more timid kids who are convinced by their friends or family that they can learn on their own. Fortunately, such kids usually don't pick up too much speed before they fall, and usually suffer less severe injuries.

The "reason" given in the Post article about the accident at WT (ie, "one ski came off") is *never* the real reason behind such accidents. The ski undoubtedly came off well after the boy was already going too fast (for one of the reasons given above) and he either caught an edge (because he was not competent at such speeds), or he was trying desperately (but ineffectively) to twist his skis to try to make them turn.

The way to prevent anything like this from happening to someone in your charge is to:

A) Talk to your group about safety before the trip (eg, make them memorize and understand "The Skiers Responsibility Code", tell them that people die when they violate it);

B) Strongly RECOMMEND lessons from the ski pros at the mountain for everyone, even those with some previous experience. REQUIRE lessons for those that have never skied before (or haven't skied within the past year); and,

C) Lay down safety rules with clear and severe consequences for violations of the rules. For example, tell them, "If the leaders or the ski patrol sees a person skiing above their ability, it will be a no-discussion situation: On the first violation, you will sit in the bus for an hour. On the second, you will sit in the bus for the remainder of the session. This way there will be no third violation & you will have to explain to your parents how you wasted their money for this trip.".

D) Contact the ski patrol ahead of the planned trip, discuss your policies, and make sure they have a way to recognize participants in your group and a way to contact the leaders when you are all out on the mountain skiing (eg, cell phone, walkie-talkie channel & subcode, etc.).

BTW, don't think that you can leave enforcement of your rules to the ski patrol, or that you can figure out which participants in your group will be at risk based on previous skiing experience / ability. This is an issue of maturity and risk taking, not ability and experience. The risk of #2 (above) decreases for people with more experience, but for these people, the risk of #1 (above) increases. I have talked to numerous leaders of kids' skiing trips, and unfortunately, rarely do they do any of the things suggested above, even though it is clearly their responsibility to do so.

I have a 10 year old daughter, and I know I wouldn't want to send her off to what sounds like a fun adventure, only to see her return injured or even worse, never to see her again.

As a trip leader, you are essentially a stand-in parent for these kids on your trip. Do your job and keep them safe.

Tom / PM

PS (in edit) - A couple more comments:

a) Make sure the other accompanying adults are competent and mature skiers/boarders themselves and that they understand their roll in safety on the trip. If their real motivation in participating is merely to get a free ride and a zero-cost day on the mountain, and/or think they won't have to do any work once at the mountain, you don't want them as co-leaders.

b) Finally, realize that if you don't have thorough safety precautions in place and something happens to a kid, no matter what sort of liability release form you have the parents sign, you personally can still be sued, and there is a good chance that you *will be* sued in an affluent, well-educated area like ours. There are numerous ways such forms can be challenged if you don't provide a suitable "standard of care". OTOH, if its obvious that you consider safety important and took appropriate actions, then the assumption of risk principle will be valid, and it is very unlikely you will be sued should there be an accident.

[This message has been edited by PhysicsMan (edited 09-03-2003).]

ski_guy_59
September 2, 2003
Member since 11/9/2001
221 posts
Good points Tom! Whenever I go skiing with my youth group at church, someone gets hurt. Be it a split chin or a concussion, somebody undoubtedly gets injured. I always suggest that people take lessons, but they think one lesson is enough. Our group leader doesn't even realize that a beginner's lesson does not prepare a person for advanced terrain.
Scott - DCSki Editor
September 2, 2003
Member since 10/10/1999
1,113 posts
Tom makes some very excellent points. For large groups, I know resorts such as Whitetail in the past have offered to have someone from the ski safety team "meet and greet" the bus, going through the Skier Safety Code and providing safety tips. Probably not a bad way to start the trip.
PhysicsMan
September 3, 2003
Member since 11/20/2001
218 posts
Scott - That's a great service and should be used, but I think that there is no substitute for the kids hearing policy (the no-words-minced version) from people they know and will see again (ie, their own trip leaders).

Ski_guy_59 - I have heard the same thing time and time again from people on similar trips and have observed it myself. The next time a trip is in the planning stages, why don't you print out my message and show it to the leader(s). Sometimes its hard to be the messenger carrying the seemingly spoil-sport information, but perhaps if they see the recommendations comming from an independent & maybe more authoritative source source, they may have less ego involvement and act on the recommendations.

Thanks for your positive comments, guys.

Tom / PM

(Anonymous)
September 3, 2003
I just wanted to write and thank you for all of the valuable info you provided. I'm sure it's going to help make this go much more smoothly from the very start of the day.

Rich
September 7, 2003
Member since 11/30/2000
194 posts
Hey, what a coincidence...I work for a company (Teen Winter Sports) that specifically caters to youth ski groups. We supply EVERYTHING: transportation (full size video bus), meals, chaperones, lift tickets, lessons, rentals, FULLY supervised...the whole 9 yards! The staff are PSIA certified instructors. We do tons of local day trips, and weekend overnight trips (additionally including lodging) to: 7-Springs, Hunter Mtn, NY, Killington, VT, and many many others. We have been taking church groups, private & public schools, Boy Scouts, etc. for many years.

Contact me for info: richard_capek@yahoo.com

P.S. - DON'T CONFUSE US WITH OTHER so-called "tour companies" !!! WE DON'T pick'um up & drop'um off !!! The kids are totally SUPERVISED at all time: no drinking, drugs, etc are tolerated at any time. We are on the slopes (in radio contact) at all times for any assistance required. If they want free tips/lessons - fine, if they want to just ski with their friends - fine...but we'll be out there, available for anything they require to make a great skiing adventure!

[This message has been edited by Rich (edited 09-07-2003).]

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