Calif. panel passes strict ski, snowboard rules
Associated Press Writer
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A bill that would require minors to wear a helmet while skiing or snowboarding in California pitted skiers and doctors against each other as lawmakers moved the bill out of committee Tuesday.
If it’s signed into law, the helmet requirement would be the most restrictive in the nation, mandating helmets for all skiers and snowboarders under the age of 18 and imposing stricter safety rules on California ski resorts.
The bill by state Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, also would require ski resorts to file annual safety plans and issue monthly reports about injuries and deaths.
Those requirements have been opposed by some in the ski industry, who call the measure extreme and unnecessary. Jack Bruner, a doctor who spoke against the bill, called it a “minefield” and said the law would be unenforceable.
“We view these as a possible invitation to lawsuits,” Michael Dillon, representing the California Ski Industry Association, testified before the Assembly Health Committee.
Jones, the committee’s chairman, agreed to amend the bill to clarify that it would not undermine the assumption of risk taken by a skier or snowboarder when visiting a ski resort.
Alanna Lungren, a skier who competed on the Squaw Valley Ski Race Team and in the Extreme Games qualifier races, testified that she suffered deep injuries after crashing into a tree while wearing a helmet.
“I was told my ski helmet saved me from serious head and brain damage,” Lungren said.
The committee ended up passing the measure, but some lawmakers on the panel expressed concern about the requirement that the industry adopt standardized safety signs and report injuries and deaths.
“I think that what we’re doing here is to try to over-regulate an industry to set up an unenforceable law,” said Assemblywoman Audra Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks.
Bill sponsors countered that the bill would not regulate resorts and that it includes no inspection or enforcement mechanisms.
“There’s nothing in the bill that changes the fact that when you walk on the slopes, you’re assuming the risk,” Jones said. “It merely says ‘provide information, provide the safety plans, provide fatality information.'”
Jones added that making it a crime to not wear a helmet, which is a provision in a similar bill introduced by Sen. Leland Yee, was not the best approach.
After the committee’s vote, ski industry representatives said that despite Jones’ offer to amend the bill, they would not change their position. Instead, they would support Yee’s bill, which would require minors to wear a helmet but would not require them to track safety plans, injuries and deaths.
“It would not stop litigation,” Bob Roberts, executive director of the California ski association, said after the hearing. “The language is still rife with legal pitfalls in its current state.”