What: Today The California Ski and Snowboard Safety Organization (CSSSO) issued the first of its kind Family Safety Report Card spotlighting varying and inconsistent safety and accident prevention practices at California mountain resorts. The Report Card is intended to provide guidance to parents in identifying the safest possible resorts for their families. The Report Card identifies known practices and safeguards in several categories, including:
- Padding for lift poles, buildings and other fixed obstacles
- Speed and congestion controls
- Terrain park design and operations
- Trail intersection design and management
- Hazard warnings, markers and barriers
- Snowmaking equipment and moving vehicle safeguards
How: The grades are based on the best available public information, including resort websites, as well as the onsite observations of a limited set of safeguards documented in the 2011 California Mountain Resort Safety Report produced by the SnowSport Safety Foundation (SSF) (www.snowsportsafetyfoundation.org/research.html). In the summer of 2012, SSF sent a follow-up Resort Family Safety Survey to obtain the most current information on resort safety practices and policies. The Survey specifically requested resort safety plans and information on policies and practices such as death and injury tracking and reporting, reckless skier monitoring and sanctions, alcohol service on slopes, child helmet use requirements and child accompaniment requirements, among other key factors important to safety. No resort responded to the Survey.
Why: Except for mechanical lift inspections, California has no snow sport safety statutes or regulations. There is no public source of death and injury statistics and resorts do not provide this information.California resorts have among the strongest legal liability protections in the country. California courts are among very few in the nation that uphold express waivers of negligence (see the back of a lift ticket or a season pass contract) as a complete defense and recognize a very limited duty of care, e.g., no duty to mark or fence known natural hazards like cliffs or unexposed rock. The law places the burden of responsibility for safety almost entirely on the participant.
Who: Dr. Dan Gregorie, the founder of CSSSO, has been unwavering in his efforts to urge ski resorts to document their safety plans and make them available to patrons on request in addition to making their death and injury statistics publicly accessible for individuals and families to make informed choices. Dr. Gregorie lost his only daughter, Jessica, in a horrific slide over a hidden cliff while crossing between slopes on an insidiously dangerous resort-designated traverse. The insidiously dangerous conditions and the cliff have been well known to the resort as well as the cause of fatalities and serious injuries before and after her death. There was no guidance on the safest path across the traverse or fence above the cliff, nor were there any warning signs. Since Jessica’s death in February 2006, there have been numerous collisions, falls, chairlift mishaps and avalanche deaths at California ski resorts. How many could have been prevented is unknown and open to question.
When: Dr. Dan Gregorie is available for interviews about the Family Safety Report Card and his ongoing efforts to improve safety and accident prevention at California resorts. To arrange an interview, contact Lisa Yates at (916) 552-2652, (916) 215-9550 or [email protected].
Image courtesy California Ski and Snowboard Safety Organization