Letter: Vail Mountain receives the No. 1 award for Overall Safety Programs | VailDaily.com

Letter: Vail Mountain receives the No. 1 award for Overall Safety Programs

Editor's note: This is a follow-up to a previous letter submitted by Paul Rondeau ("Vail has a new score of six," Friday, Oct. 20). Find a cited version of this letter at http://www.vaildaily.com.

No, they didn't change our No. 6 resort ranking to a No. 1. Rather, in May of this year, Vail Mountain received the top ranking in Overall Safety Programs in the larger resorts category of the National Ski Area Association. The award recognized "exceptional resort initiatives to educate guests and employees about skiing and snowboarding responsibly."

This award didn't get much fanfare here in Vail, possibly expecting some less-than-positive response from some of the letter writers who were critical of Vail Resorts dealing with safety last winter season.

Yes, it's easy to criticize and it's not easy to put together a really effective safety program — especially for our skiing and riding public. But it is possible to do better, likely with a whole new mindset. Let's peel the onion:

• Everywhere else: If you drive a car — involving issues of life, limb and personal property — you must have a license to drive and follow some rules. Even if you rent a go-cart, you are given a few one-on-one tips about safety and some rules before going out.

• Bot not here: You buy a lift ticket, with luck the person at the window suggests you pickup a trail map, and you are out there.

Recommended Stories For You

• But there are rules: Yes with Your Responsibility Code and the Colorado Ski Safety Act. But with little imagination of how to really get folks' attention.

• But what could be done better? Whatever it is, it has to start at the top with real "fire in the belly." It has to address more than the often-highlighted skier-to-skier collisions (or substitute skier with "rider"). The program has to say what many know should be said.

This includes addressing three key categories: First, helping avoid a wide variety of injury scenarios, such as the dreaded ACL skier injury. Second, find ways to help our guests improve their games, not just in formal classes, and third, the courtesies of interacting with other skiers and riders.

The ideas are out there, probably more in the heads of the public, rather than the operating company — this is always the case. The challenge is how to communicate ideas effectively to our guests and keep the company lawyers at bay.

• What's a big-picture example? The notion of a Vail Resorts exclusive "WeCare" commitment, as a displayed-everywhere motto, with substance behind it. It might say: What we (Vail Resorts) will do for you (our guests) and what we expect from you.

• How about something more specific? Experienced ski or snowboard instructors can, with a quick look, easily give a single tip to improve the skill level of probably one in every two or three skiers or riders. Since instructors can do this from a distance, such as from a chairlift, how about a fenced-off area for "drive through tips"?

• Why would the operating ski company want to do all of this? Simply to continue to be leaders in the industry, now tackling safety in a broader context. There could even be a push for the annual Ski magazine ranking system to include a new category of things considered in the rankings.

How about "fitness, safety and skills?" This is not out of the question, noting Ski magazine has recently teamed up with the Professional Ski Instructors of America for ongoing emphasis of skills improvement via newly launched "How to Break Through" e-learning course. Furthermore, the National Ski Area Association's proactive push for safety via the heart-breaking #RideAnotherDay video.

Vail Resorts could then spearhead its leadership position with a "WeCare" commitment, calling out its National Ski Area Association involvement, our industry-leading ski and snowboard schools and, yes, finally talking about our world-class fitness and orthopedic prevention/recovery services at its base.

• In summary: Just a few outside-the-box ideas as part of a thoughtful piece. A follow-up from Vail Resorts would be appreciated.

Paul Rondeau

Vail