Vail Daily letter: Safety on the mountain
Every year you see a variety of the public’s letters in the Vail Daily regarding safety on the mountain, including the notion that Vail Resorts can do more. This season — and I miss issues — we’ve had a plethora of letters with enough substance to form a big picture:
• Scope: Letters mostly focus on actual or perceived collision scenarios and thanks to ski patrol for their help with injuries. Perhaps focus on safety by Vail Resorts needs more on non-collision, injury avoidance. Trail maps address helmet use, high altitude awareness and sun protection. So why not go broader by sharing well-known tips to help avoid common injuries specific to skiers and riders?
• Vision: One letter entitled “Imagine” envisioned total politeness, awareness and more. So why not dream bigger where safety is a subset of a comprehensive “well-being” program?
• Actions: Letters suggested many specific, workable and low/no-cost actions to improve safety. The wildest idea was looking at safety as a competitive advantage! So why not be bold with actions?
It would seem the above open-ended questions, formed from public feedback, are enough for Vail Resorts to put more substance in the “boring until it happens to you” subject of safety? The 5 M’s capture the components required for any emphasis program:
• Messages: A sub-heading to a mountain’s main theme, such as ours: “Vail, Like Nothing On Earth.” An example: “Your wellbeing is our passion” could be at every Vail Resorts resort. Then detailed messages spread around: humorous, in-your-face and instructive — examples: “Heads don’t bounce … wear a helmet,” “Do what pros do … take a tuneup clinic lesson,” “Trees … give them their space.”
• Messengers: Probably a messenger-in-chief, a czar. Yellow jackets, yes, but with a more proactive mission and expanded in numbers. Then consider the whole “team” to also include ski patrol, instructors, lift ops, Vail Resorts risk management, town’s roaming information folks, speakers at local schools and even medical providers.
• Meaningful changes in policies, procedures and tools are the real meat for improvement. Outside-of-the-box ideas for each: One, with a signature safety program in place, lobby to bring in something like Vail Resorts’ “attention to your safety” survey question as a new rating item in national resort rankings; two, penalty option for safety violators to do a “I screwed up” video, to be broadly aired — social media, etc.; three, video and hand-held loudspeakers for yellow jackets.
• Meeting of the minds: Top-to-bottom “buy in” and bottom-to-top feedback key for all players from internal departments and outside functions. A way to make things “sink in” is to do the job of others for a day — such as Vail Resorts risk management folks being a mentored yellow jacket for a day.
• Measurements: One, accident evaluation with modern analytics and, two, perception of effectiveness with surveys, coupled with feedback from facilitated focus groups of user organizations and the “messengers” themselves.
In summary, Vail Resorts has done a lot, but the “time is right” to take it to the next level. A final note for a “can do” mindset is a paraphrased quote from a recent outdoor magazine: “Skiing and riding aren’t team sports, but let’s act as a team and help each other out.”