Letter: Safety didn’t make the cut
The April 16 edition of the Vail Daily headlined “Skier safety bill fails” featured an article reporting on the end of a proposal in the Colorado legislature to do two things: Require ski areas to report data for injuries and deaths and have a comprehensive safety plan and let the public know what the plan is all about.
From the Vail Daily article, it appears the legislative process had two groups facing off against each other. On one side, ski areas and the industry argued legal and administrative perspectives. On the other side, safety affinity organizations and individuals telling personal stories — including arguing on-mountain injuries should be like traffic accidents. This comparison might imply notions of responsibility, transparency and lessons to be learned. In the end, the ski area and industry group prevailed as the committee voted against moving forward with Senate Bill 184. This is my interpretation from reading the article.
It was not clear from the article whether there was any attempt to decouple the two issues in the legislative proposal. My interest is having a publicized safety program. Clearly safety-focused initiatives will not eliminate all guest self-inflicted and person-to-person injuries. But they can do a lot, especially with a renewed mindset, coupled with a willingness to accept ideas from the outside.
I have over the years put out ideas of making safety into something real, effective and fun. One notion I had several years ago was taking the stern Skier Responsibility Code and complementing it with a catchy, alphabetized checklist. Kids would have quickly picked up on the idea of knowing your ABC’s and XYZ’s checklist. Perhaps this is trite, but I haven’t seen many “out of the box” ideas floating around.
We all love our local ski mountains and, on balance, respect and admire their operating organizations. But “you would think” things could be better, noting a more visible, effective set of safety programs can also mean competitive advantage. In this case, the competition of individual ski areas against each other within a larger corporate entity (e.g. Vail Resorts), competition with other ski areas and competition with non-skiing vacations for our guests.
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In summary, this letter is a sincere attempt to nudge the ski industry and local ski areas to make safety, perhaps under a new name, a more important and integral part of the overall guest experience. Yes, I am an old-timer, having skied for over 75 years, across most of the United States and in Europe, as my employment moved me around a lot.