Resorts promoting skier safety awareness on slopes
EAGLE COUNTY — January is National Safety Awareness Month, and both Vail and Beaver Creek resorts are preaching what they practice year-round.
“Safety is one of our core values and something that is on our minds and reflected in our actions all season long,” Sally Gunter, of Vail Resorts, said via email.
From ski and snowboard school partnering with lift operations on a Children on Lifts initiative to Mountain Safety patrolling the designated slow zones, each department contributes to overall safety for both visitors and employees.
In-bounds, on-mountain safety revolves around the Responsibility Code, which consists of seven points of focus.
“The Responsibility Code is about awareness and etiquette,” Gunter said. “It is important for skiers and snowboarders to know the role they play in slope safety, and the code serves as the rules of the road on the slopes.”
According to the National Ski Areas Association, there were 42 catastrophic injuries across U.S. ski areas during the 2014-15 ski season; 33 were male, and eight were snowboarders. Of the 42, 86 percent were the result of collisions with trees, objects or other skiers or riders.
“Spatial awareness is something we are encouraging among our employees,” Gunter said. “Be aware and spread out among others on the hill. Education, respect and common sense is also encouraged.”
Lyle and Carolyn Keating have been skiing for over 50 years, and on Wednesday they were making turns at Vail.
“I’ve been hit a couple of times,” Lyle said. “It’s always from behind, and it’s not always kids.”
“People don’t always give enough space,” Carolyn said. “The mountain’s wide open; just give people a little bit of room.”
In 2013-14, the National Ski Areas Association named Beaver Creek the Best Overall Safety Program of resorts with more than 350,000 visitors.
Mountain Safety staff, easily spotted in the yellow jackets, are at both Vail and Beaver Creek, typically located in slow zones. They are there to educate visitors and locals alike about recognizing slow zones and abiding by slower speeds.
Yellow jackets’ interactions are all about education and consequences, Gunter said, which can result in a suspended pass. If a pass is suspended, then the skier or snowboarder must complete a safety education course in order to be reactivated.
“Knowing the Skier Responsibility Code and abiding by its rules, as well as obeying all posted signs and warnings, will help guests have a safe experience on the mountain,” Gunter said.
Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and email@example.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.