Mountain Spy

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In this Mountain Spy, Liz Eren disguises herself as a worried Mom and asks a very open-ended question. The answers are varied, but some really nailed it.


Question: Another mom is taking my 12-year-old son mountain biking at your resort with his friends. Is it safe?


Mountain 1, PA


First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: If it is safe?
SAM: Yup. Another parent will be dropping them off.
Staff: OK. I can put you over to the mountain bike area and they can help you with that.
SAM: Great.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Well, uh, I can give you up to guest information and they can tell you for sure. I mean it is safe, but it’s, ah, like any activity, a person, you know, possibly could get hurt. I mean, it’s just, you know, it’s ah, it’s safe, you know, as any activity is. It’s you know, a rough sport. Let me try to put you back over there and you can talk to the activity center.
Answering phone: Male.
SAM: Restated question.
Staff: Weeell, your best bet would probably be to speak to someone at the recreation center because I mean they have helmets and everything available. They also have shin guards and amour available. Is he bringing his own bike or is he renting?
SAM: Renting.
Staff: OK, well they have a lot of equipment there to rent like guard equipment. Let me put you through to the recreation center.
SAM: They just transferred me back to you. No one was answering.
Staff: Oh, OK. Let me do this. I will tell you it’s all in how they ride. If they’re careful they’ll be all right. And they do have a lot of, ah, like, they have the shin guards, elbow pads and they have helmets available. They do have to have a helmet on.
SAM: That’s great that they have all kinds of protective gear, but can the kids just go wherever they want? Is it just a free-for-all?
Staff: Well, they go on a certain trail. They could have a guide available to them. That’s all set up through the recreation center.
SAM: Well, I know all the kids going are relatively experienced.
Staff: Well, it is a mountainous area. It is through a wooded area too.
SAM: Are the trails maintained?
Staff: They are maintained. They periodically go there to clear them and re-bank things like that.
SAM: OK. And they take a chairlift up?
Staff: Yes they do. If it’s running they take a chairlift up and if it’s not they have a vehicle that takes them up. Like in a van, they go in a van and their bikes go on a pull-along trailer.
SAM: OK. So when they take the chairlift up are there different trails? Are some easier than others hopefully?
Staff: Yes. There are different levels of trails they go on. There are expert and intermediate trails and then, ah, like, novice and beginner trails.
SAM: Good. Well you’ve answered some of my questions so thank you.
Staff: Sure thing. And if you have more questions feel free to call the recreation center.

Rating: 5
Comment: Whew. That was just too much work.

Mountain 2, MI

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Female.
Staff: OK. So you mean mountain biking at our resort?
SAM: Yes.
Staff: Sure. Let me transfer you over to our activities desk.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Restated question.
Staff: Um, yeah, I mean we have different trails. Is he coming alone with friends? Is he bringing his own bike?
SAM: Yup, he’ll bring his own bike. Another parent will be dropping them off. There’s a few of them and they mountain bike around our houses, we have a few trails in the woods.
Staff: OK. Um, when are they planning on coming?
SAM: In the next few weeks.
Staff: OK. Because we have more than just trails. I mean new this year are the trails that are considered downhill mountain bike trails. Those are what he would take the chairlift to. We have mountain bike trails that are just like regular trail biking like, say, around your house. They’re pretty flat and generally are very safe. They definitely will have to have a waiver signed and will have to watch a safety video for our new downhill trails. And there’s definitely, I don’t want to say dangerous but –
SAM: Are there different kind of trails to go down or are they all difficult?
Staff: Well, they are all going to be difficult. Any downhill trails that are new this year are going to be for experienced riders. It’s not going to be for a first-time, trail-riding biker. They would have to have a parent or guardian fill out a form. And you know, I would have to check if we even allow 12-year-olds on the downhill trails.
SAM: OK. Can you?
Staff: Yeah sure, hold on one second.
Staff: OK. What is says here on our brochure is 13 years or older.
SAM: OK, so he would not be able to do it.
Staff: No, but our regular mountain bike trails have been expanded and he would definitely be allowed on those and you don’t have to take the chairlift for them.
SAM: Great. That makes me feel better. And those trails aren’t too extreme?
Staff: Um, no. We have them from novice… what it says here is novice bikers and enthusiasts are welcome. You can roll through miles of trails that aren’t as technical as the downhill trails. I mean I wouldn’t let my 12-year-old on the downhill trails, ha ha ha!
SAM: Right?! So otherwise there’s staff around the area?
Staff: Yup. All of our recreation staff is first-aid and CPR-certified. I mean I’ve never seen any major incidents on our mountain biking trails.
SAM: Perfect. Thanks so much for your help.

Rating: 7
Comment: Good effort for checking the hard facts.

Mountain 3, MN

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: It’s a challenging trail. I would recommend that they do bring helmets when they come and gloves. And make sure they have footwear that kind of covers their toes rather than wearing sandals. And then I would recommend staying to the blue course. We have blue poles and red poles that mark the course.
SAM: OK.
Staff: So if they stay on the blue course, that’s the easier of the courses. And then, um, if they find it too challenging we do have service roads here that will take them back to the club house or starting area.
SAM: Great, so you do have easier trails.
Staff: That’s right, yes. They go around the ski resort. They are really no obstacles other than some rocks and gravel. But if they go off onto the red trails, those are a little more challenging where there’s steeper downhill areas and, ah, we call it armoring, where if it’s a steep hill we use a lot of rocks to hold it so the ground doesn’t erode.
SAM: Sure, thanks. I can tell him to stick to the blue trails. Is there staff around?
Staff: There are, um, we do have staff that is working on the chairlifts and then there’s a maintenance shop and we also have people here in the offices.
SAM: Good.
Staff: And I would recommend that they bring water with them as it’s pretty warm right now. There are no spots on the trail for water.
SAM: Sure thing. And there’s someone there they check in with when they’re dropped off?
Staff: Yes there is. I would also recommend when they get here to pick up a bike map. The map has a lot of details on it that will help them get back to the club house.

Rating: 8
Comment: Thorough information without the need for prompting.

Mountain 4, IL

First contact: Automated machine.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Uh, yeah. Let me connect you to the mountain outfitters and they can discuss it with you.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Restated question.
Staff: Oh definitely. Yes. We have younger kids that go all the time.
SAM: Great.
Staff: Sure. Are they renting bikes or do they have their own?
SAM: They have their own. And they’ll have helmets, of course. Do you designate kids into different areas based on their age?
Staff: We don’t, no. We do have a couple different trails out here. We’ve got easier trails and harder trails so it’s really up to the rider what trails they want to go on. I mean we can see them like, pretty well. And the trails get checked every night before we close.
SAM: Hmm. OK. And they take the chairlift to the trails?
Staff: Um, no. Actually they start right from the lodge.
SAM: Great. And someone can help point them in the direction of the trails?
Staff: Of course! Whenever they get here, if they want to stop inside the X apparel shop they can get a map and stuff. And then whoever is in here can point them in the right direction, like here’s the red trail and here’s where it starts. And so on.
SAM: That’s great. And do they need more gear than a helmet?
Staff: Nope. As long as they have helmet on. And we really don’t require helmets, but as a mom I would make my kids wear one! Ha ha ha. I mean if you have to tell them that we require one we will play along.
SAM: Sounds good. So the easier trails are just basic trails through the woods? And there’s no huge obstacles?
Staff: No. They can go around anything if for any reason there is an obstacle. But they do a good job at clearing the trails if something does come down like after a storm or something. They’ll be fine.
SAM: Perfect.

Rating: 7.5
Comment: Good attitude with helpful reassurance. What a mom likes to hear! But still had to prompt with questions.

Mountain 5, MD

First contact: Automated machine.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Ha ha ha, has he ever done this before?
SAM: Yeah, he and his friends mountain bike around our house a lot. We’ve got some trails in the woods they go on.
Staff: OK, but this is downhill.
SAM: Right. That’s why I’m calling to see how safe it is.
Staff: Um. I want to say yes. Um, accidents happen. I mean it’s straight downhill. Our hill is not for novices. We do have one small beginner hill, if you want to call it a beginner hill. It is long and is still steep, but not as steep as the others.
SAM: Hmm. OK. But you have a beginner trail they can start on?
Staff: Yeah. I guess. It’s a longer hill to get your bearings. I wish there was someone here you could talk to from the bike shop. Hold on.
Staff: OK, I’m going to let you talk to the guy up here. One second.
Answering phone: Male.
SAM: Restated question.
Staff: Um, well, that’s completely up to their ability and how they go through it. I mean our mountain is a downhill ski mountain so it is a lot more vertical downhill. It is all downhill and the trails are single lane tracks. So basically they’re not on the ski trails, they are on trails in the woods between ski trails so it is kind of single lane. Um, as they’re going down there are some different features and everything is clearly marked with signs. So, like ski trails with either blue squares or black diamonds for intermediate or experts. We also have a trail map so when they come in to get their tickets they’ll have a trail map. And being beginners and a younger age there are about two trails they’ll be on. Um, most of the other trails are expert and a little more hard. So far as the chairlift, they load the bikes on for them and then they get on the chair themselves. And then there’s a bar to put down for safety there. While going on the trails is a dangerous sport—it is downhill biking—but if they go slow at a nice easy pace, you know, it would be to their ability. You know if they go faster and speed up they could get hurt.
SAM: OK.
Staff: But if they go nice and slow and go through the two easier trails, it’s not too bad.
SAM: Sounds good. So someone will show them where those are?
Staff: Yeah when they sign up and get their tickets they’ll get all the bike gear and a map and be shown where everything is including the two easier trails.
SAM: Great. So now they’re planning to bring their own bikes. Is that OK? Will they get other gear?
Staff: Well, if they’re coming with their own bikes, it’s just a trail pass they have to purchase and they’ll get a map. Um, as far as biking, we’ve changed this year. We no longer do a XC bike. We now do only downhill bikes and that comes with a heavier duty bike with a lot of suspension. And that comes with a full-face helmet, full body gear with a spinal column guard, arm guards, leg guards, wrist guards. Um, but that’s pretty much for the more expensive package. If they’re bringing their own bike, um, then it’s just a $35 pass fee to use the chairlift and trails.
SAM: Hmmm. Well can they rent that protective gear if I want them to?
Staff: Um, yeah, hold on. Yes, you can rent the gear. I just have to see how much it is.
SAM: That’s OK, it’s just good to know I can rent that.
Staff: Yup, they can rent a full-face helmet. Then we have a piece you put on kind of like a vest. You put you arms through and it has a spinal guard and chest guard. And then there’s also arm guards and leg guards that go with that.
SAM: Thanks so much. That answers a lot of my concerns. Is there anything else I should be aware of?
Staff: Yeah, I mean it’s all up to their ability. So if they go nice and slow, and get comfortable, they’ll have a lot of fun. And we do have staff at the bottom and top if they need to ask any questions while they’re riding.
SAM: Thanks so much!

Rating: 8.5
Comment: Thankfully the second staff member was patient and very thorough.

Mountain 6, CA

First contact: Automated machine. Chose “mountain information.”
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: How safe mountain biking is here? Um, well, of course we have varying degrees of trails from green to blue to black and double black. Have they mountain biked before?
SAM: Yes, they have. They mountain bike on trails in the area pretty frequently. I’m just worried about them going up on the lift and how safe the whole thing is.
Staff: Well, first of all they’re going up the X lift and the bikes will be on the bike rack in front of them. So, the bike goes first and then they get on the chair and they go up the mountain to the top of Y lift. And again there are blue runs, green runs and double black diamond runs. Do they have shocks on their bikes?
SAM: Yeah, I know my son does. I’m not sure about the other kids.
Staff: Well, they need to have at least four inches of suspension. If they don’t, they are going to be miserable! I don’t care if they’re on the green runs because of rocks and bushes and stuff they’re going to fall into. How old are your kids?
SAM: What do you mean “fall into?”
Staff: Bushes! You know if they hit a rock and go sideways they could potentially fall into a sage brush.
SAM: So, you’re saying with better shocks that will help them?
Staff: Yes, exactly. How old are these kids?
SAM: Twelve.
Staff: Well, being a mother myself my son probably did it when he was that age and he crashed.
SAM: Oh?
Staff: It’s hardcore. I mean when you come here and see what people are wearing—the full-on body armor and full-faced helmets and shin guards and all that stuff. Even the easy trails can be a little treacherous. It’s up to your kids as to what they want to travel on.
SAM: Sure.
Staff: There’s an easier ride off the first lift, which would probably be very good for them if you can ask them to stay in that area. You’ll have to come and buy their tickets and sign a release of liability waiver so you would have to be present to do that. And we will show you a map and we can explain to them where they need to stay. But they cannot buy a ticket without a parent or guardian.
SAM: Of course. What other safety measure do you have? Are there staff members around? Is there protective gear for them?
Staff: Yes. There’s protective gear, I suggest renting for them. I would recommend a full-faced helmet. Or, coming up and taking a ride up and taking a look at it is one of the best deterrents that I’ve ever known. Just say you talked with me and you want to go up the gondola and sit on the deck and take a look at what these kids are doing.
SAM: OK, sure, yeah.
Staff: I mean in all honestly, we don’t recommend under the age of 9. I wouldn’t put my 12-year-old out there. So I would definitely go up and have a look and watch these mountain bikers and what they’re doing. You could always sign them up for a bike 101 class.
SAM: Oh, OK. You offer lessons?
Staff: Yes. And we also offer private lessons as well. It’s $99 for two hours.
SAM: And the instructor takes them on the bike trails?
Staff: Yes. The instructor is with them for those two hours. That’s another option for them to get the full value of what safety is and how to ride with their shocks, when to lean back, when and how to brake. Braking is one of the main things, so they don’t fly over the handlebars. So that would be my suggestion. Get them their protective gear and get them into a private lesson for two hours and you’ll feel much better. And they’ll take them on the best runs and show them where to go and not to go.
SAM: Great, thanks so much. I’ll set up a lesson.

Rating: 6
Comment: Tough love. Now I’m not sure if I’m more or less nervous. At least she mentioned the lesson option.

Mountain 7, CA

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Oh, it’s completely safe. We have trails for all levels. A bunch of families always come here with their kids. You can see the trail on our website that gives you more information. And same with skiing, there’s a bunch of blue runs and green runs they can definitely do. And just the lower trails of our mountain biking is open right now. So he can’t even get to the top right now with his mountain bike. So he wouldn’t even be able to touch those hard ones ha ha ha.
SAM: Perfect. So right now it’s more basic trails?
Staff: Yeah I mean there’s some downhill stuff for the extreme guys, but it’s all listed out there and all the signage is up. And they’ll probably have the most fun on trails called X and Y.
SAM: Great. So once they’re dropped off will they get a trail map and an explanation to where the easier trails are?
Staff: Yup, exactly. They’ll get a bike park map and it looks exactly like our winter map except there’s no snow on it! And they have the blue runs and the green runs and the more advanced runs are marked. You’ll see the red and orange you gotta stay away from. They’ll have fun on the blue and green ones. And if they just ask any ticket operator or bus driver or anybody that works in the bike park, they’ll be able to direct them to where they’ll have fun and be safe.
SAM: Thanks! So they’ll have their own bikes and I’ll send them with helmets, of course, but is that all they need for protective gear?
Staff: Well, definitely a helmet for sure. Sometimes when I go out I’ll wear shin guards and I like to wear gloves so I don’t get blisters. But, um, yeah there’s trails out here that they’re not going to have any problems with.
SAM: OK. Do you offer any more of that equipment?
Staff: Yes. Absolutely. We rent all protective gear so you can always get them more.
SAM: Thanks so much. I’ll go check out your website for the trail map.

Rating: 9.5
Comment: This phone call was actually a lot longer. This person answered every question pleasantly! She kicks butt.

Mountain 8, CO

First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: I really can’t make a judgment call. It’s like asking how safe is skiing. There are inherent risks. It is up to the user. I know lots of kids younger than twelve that do do the biking, but I also know there are some injuries every year as well. (That’s your opener?!)
SAM: Sure. I guess I’d like to know what safety measures you guys have in place.
Staff: Well, we do encourage helmets. I see lots of people with something called body amour. There’s also numerous nice easy mellow dirt bike trails out here which are a lot of fun. They don’t necessarily have to do the down-the-mountain stuff. That probably is a little bit more of a risk you could say.
SAM: Do you have to get on a chairlift for all the trails?
Staff: Oh, no, there’s lot of trails that you don’t need to the lift to access.
SAM: So there are easier trails?
Staff: Oh, absolutely. Even if they went up the lift. There’s designated easy, moderate and difficult runs just like skiing. And like I said, you’re in the National Forest up here so there’s little dirt roads everywhere you can explore without getting on the lift.
SAM: Great. Well I’ll definitely send them with helmets and have them stay on the easier trails. Is there anything else you can tell me? Is there staff around?
Staff: We have bike patrol on the mountain itself. But on the other bike trails that you don’t access from the lift, we don’t patrol those. You’re on your own. old’s adventure?!)
SAM: Well, if I tell them to stay on the mellower trails around the base area, how do they know where to go? How will they not get lost?
Staff: OK. This is a very diverse biking community. There’s everything from the little paved bike path that connects all the towns in the county, up to brush cutting your own path on the mountain side. Sooo, I would have him go on only marked paths because there’s so many variables up here.
SAM: Of course. I just imagine it as a ski hill set up since you’re describing designated marked trails of different ability levels.
Staff: Yeah. When you’re on the mountain and take the lift up, everything is well marked. If you do not take the lift up, you explore at your own leisure.
SAM: Got it. And there are easier trails if they do take the lift up?
Staff: Yes ma’am. It’s set up just like skiing—well marked, well patrolled trails in a controlled environment.
SAM: Great. That’s all I wanted to be sure of. Thanks so much for your help.

Rating: 8
Comment: He was certainly a boss’s dream. He was patient and informative and did a good job not guaranteeing safety. We could have asked for a more upbeat sell, but he did his job admirably.

Mountain 9, CO

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Umm, ya know, it’s like any outdoor activity, similar to skiing. It’s as safe as they make it. Or, like driving a car, it’s as safe as you drive.
SAM: Sure, I guess. So what safety measure do you take for younger kids?
Staff: Well, we take safety measures for everyone. It sounds like you’re a little nervous, which is totally understandable. What I would highly recommend if it’s a bunch of kids new to downhill mountain biking, which they probably are if they’re 12, is taking a lesson.
SAM: Yeah, I mean they bike around on trails in the area.
Staff: Well, downhill is a totally different area.
SAM: I understand that. I mean they’re not dead beginner bikers, but going up a lift is a whole different story. So you suggest a lesson?
Staff: Oh definitely! Even if they were 25. I took a lesson my first time and I had been cross-country riding for 10 years. I mean Jeff Gordon is an awesome race car driver, but you take him off-road and he might not be very good. It takes time to get used to the different style of ride. There’s no pedaling, it’s all gravity based. Are they are bringing their own bikes?
SAM: Um they are. And they’re mountain bikes.
Staff: Ideally you want a bike with full suspension, disc breaks, 6 inches of travel or so. I mean I have a pretty decent cross-country bike, but I would never take it up on the mountain. It’s totally different geometry.
SAM: I hear you. Can they bring their own bikes and the instructor can decide if they need a better bike for the lesson?
Staff: Oh yeah, sure.
SAM: Okay then. I’ll start with a lesson.
Staff: Definitely. And I would suggest that to the other parents as well. I mean as beginners they’ll want to be in a lesson to start. I’m not trying to deter you because it’s a ton of fun. And everyone who does it, loves it, but if you get hurt the first time you probably won’t want to do it again and that’s not good for you or us.
SAM: Of course. Thanks for you help!

Rating: 9
Comment: Great way to explain liability, upsell a lesson and still try and convey the fun of the biking.

Mountain 10, UT

First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Um, presently I don’t know. Let me ring you through to someone who might have more information.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Restated question.
Staff: As far as safety, it’s just like it would be with skiing. If you feel comfortable with them going on the lift by themselves, than it’s just the same. Now the trails themselves—none of them are beginner up there. They range from intermediate to expert as far as the trails go. So if they’re good mountain bikers, than they would be fine. I believe you would need to sign a release form when you drop them off.
SAM: Sure.
Staff: Yeah, as long as they’ve been on lifts before and you feel confident about them riding the lift than they’ll be fine. Let me put you on hold really quick to double check the age. Hold on one moment.
Staff: Alrightly. Yes, as long as you come in and sign the release form he can ride the lifts and everything. And you do buy a lift ticket as well and, um, that’s about it. We have the trail maps there at the rental shop where you’ll sign the release. And you can go over it with them as to where he can go. As well as the lifties.
SAM: Great. That was my next question. There’s people around if they need to ask a question?
Staff: There are yes. If you wanted to, we do have clinics if you wanted to put them in a clinics with other kids. Silence…
SAM: OK, thanks.

Rating: 5
Comment: Basic information, but I would have liked a little more reassurance and she missed a great opportunity to really sell those clinics.

Mountain 11, UT

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Umm, it’s, uhh, it depends on the kids, honestly. The terrain itself is fairly technical. There are a few easier places. This time of year it will be a little muddy. Then as far as what the kids do on the mountain, I’ve seen some kids who are incredibly cautious and safe and others like myself who tried to give their parents heart attacks!
SAM: Um, OK. Well, they have their own bikes and they ride on trails around our house, but is there staff around to help them with the chairlift and if they have any questions?
Staff: Um, loading, yeah, there will be an attendant at the top and bottom to assist with bike loading and unloading. Um, I do believe they like to have someone at least 18 with the kids to keep an eye on them to make sure they’re being safe.
SAM: Hmm. Is that a requirement?
Staff: I don’t believe it’s an actual requirement, but I haven’t seen the legal side of that.
SAM: All right. Do you have trails that don’t require them to go up the lift?
Staff: Yeah, all of our trails are accessible without the lift. The lift just takes you to the top of the little downhill section. If they’re comfortable, I would just say to cut them loose and let them ride around the trails.
SAM: Are they well-marked?
Staff: Yeah, it’s pretty straightforward.
SAM: Great. So you have mellower trails around the base?
Staff: Yeah, you can get as carried away as you want or be as mellow as you want. Silence…
SAM: And are there trail maps? Somebody will tell them where to go?
Staff: Yup, we’ve got trail maps and there’s lot of people around to help them out.
SAM: Sounds good, thanks!

Rating: 4
Comment: Not the biggest confidence booster.

Mountain 12, VT

First contact: Female
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Hmm, when are they planning on coming?
SAM: In the next few weeks.
Staff: OK. So it’s just going to be a group of 12-year-old boys?
SAM: Yes.
Staff: Hmm. Well, you know, not knowing what, um, does he do single track at all?
SAM: I’m not sure what you mean by that, but they do ride on trails around our neighborhood and they’re all in the woods.
Staff: Hmm, OK. How many are there going to be?
SAM: Probably only four or five.
Staff: Hmm. Well, it definitely depends on their ability because there’s some hard stuff up there. I would recommend for them to go in and talk to the guys in the shop and have their bikes checked out because it’s definitely a lot of downhill. I mean you ride the chairlift up. I mean they can bike around the base if they want, there are some easier trails, but they can go to the top of the mountain and come down. They can come down a work road or come down a single track. Hmmm, this is tough one.
SAM: Well, are there easier trails to come down?
Staff: Yes.
SAM: Is there staff around?
Staff: Well just the lift attendants. I mean once they’re out on the hill, they’re out on the hill.
SAM: Well, are the trails well marked?
Staff: Yup. As long as they pick up a map before they go to the top. It’ll tell them where the easier trails are. I mean my personal opinion would be to have someone there that’s a little bit older than them since they’re open to the whole mountain. You know how 12-year-old boys are.
SAM: Sure. You’re right.
Staff: And to be honest, I think the mom should go with them to talk with the bike shop guys to see how the conditions are and to look at their equipment. They should have everything checked out before they go on the hill. And they’ll do that. And have the mom ask the guys where they think they boys should ride.
SAM: Absolutely.
Staff: Yeah I mean I ride and I’ve found myself saying “Whoa!” You just want to be educated before you head out there.
SAM: I agree 100%. So the shop guys can walk them through this?
Staff: Absolutely. And the best thing they’ll do is say is for them to start out on the easiest thing we offer. As well, our staff will be aware there are four boys out on the trails. And I think they’ll have to watch a movie as well.
SAM: Like a safety movie?
Staff: Exactly.
SAM: Great. Well thanks for your help. I’ll be sure to have the other mom go through all of that.

Rating: 9
Comment: Working without official rules, she managed to give some pretty good advice to a nervous Mom. Big props for being reasonable, making a good recommendation, all without scaring her away.

Mountain 13, WV

First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Well, we’ve had a lot of rain and the trails are wet, however ski patrol will monitor and take care, but he may have to sign a release. You’re not coming with him?
SAM: No, another mom is dropping them off.
Staff: OK, it’ll be fine. It’s been raining off and on for four days, but I do not believe it is dangerous at this time. OK? (Um, not really.)
Staff: I guess so. Thanks.

Rating: 2
Comment: Is it usually dangerous?

Mountain 14, BC

First contact: Automated machine. Chose “general inquiries”
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Yeah. Are they doing a lesson at all?
SAM: Um, no, we haven’t talked about that, yet. They do bike around trails in our area. I’m just wondering how safe it is when they go downhill?
Staff: It’s extremely safe. They have patrollers consistently patrolling the mountain as well. And we do have kids younger than that heading up the chairlift themselves. It is very safe, and they do make sure, especially the children, that they’re looked after. The patrol are very, very good at getting there and getting there quickly if something happens.
SAM: OK great. So there’s people around while they’re mountain biking keeping an eye on them?
Staff: With our resort, safety is the number one priority.
SAM: Perfect. And there’s someone there to help them with their bikes on the lift?
Staff: Yes. At every lift there is someone. Most people do put their bikes on themselves, but if they struggle, there’s a liftie right there to help.
SAM: Awesome. And are there different trails they can choose to go down that are hopefully easier than others?
Staff: Yeah, there’s heaps. And they’re graded green, blue, black and double black. And the green ones will be lots of fun for them. And they’re all clearly marked.
SAM: Well, thanks so much.
Staff: My pleasure. And there’s always people around that will be able to watch them.

Rating: 8
Comment: Short and sweet with an emphasis on safety, though perhaps too much overconfidence on the safety front. And minus another point for not upselling a lesson--this place has a slew of them.

Mountain 15, VT

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Ummmm, yeah. Ummm, it is, yeah. It definitely is. Are they beginners or do they already mountain bike a lot?
SAM: They do, yeah. I would say so anyway. We have trails in the woods around our house and they’re always riding on those trails. But isn’t going downhill on a ski mountain more dangerous? I assume it is...
Staff: Well sure, it can be. But, unfortunately, our lift-served mountain biking is not recommended for children twelve or under. If they were experienced downhill bikers, than maybe we could let it slide, but for now they would need to stick to our cross-country trails, which are actually a lot of fun.
SAM: Oh, OK! I can’t say I’m disappointed. So I’m guessing your cross-country trails aren’t too difficult?
Staff: No, not at all. They are good for all ability levels. You can check out the full details of our entire mountain bike park including tours and clincis at www.xxx.com. When the other mom drops the kids off, have her come to the X sports shop where guys will be there to help her get the kids organized with any protective gear they might need and to check their bikes. We do have rental bikes available, as well, if any of the kids don’t have their own. The guys there will walk her through everything.
SAM: Great, thanks. I’ll let her know and will be sure to look at details online. Is there staff around the area while the kids are biking?
Staff: Yes. There are plenty of staff around in case the kids need something or in case something should happen. If you have any more questions don’t hesistate to give us a call back.
SAM: Thanks!

Rating: 9
Comment: A bit rocky at the start, but he managed to get all the points in, upsell a lesson, reassure a nervous mom, and a great mention of the website!

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