In many ways, skiing is a dangerous activity. Even in the best conditions, a mistake in skiing technique, lack of awareness by another skier or a temporary loss of focus could result in significant accidents and injuries.
But in some occasions, accidents happen that could have been avoided if the ski resorts themselves had taken some basic measures of care. Accidents involving ski lift malfunctions, lack of signage, lack of upkeep and the like can be avoided with a modicum of care. But currently there are no real regulations on the industry.
Should the ski resort industry be more regulated?
SnowSport Safety Foundation Report
According to an article in the Davis Enterprise, the SnowSport Safety Foundation has recently published a report on the safety of ski resorts. The article states that SnowSport Safety Foundation president Dr. Daniel Gregorie, board member Richard Penniman and the entire foundation are "on a mission to raise awareness about what can be done to make ski resorts safer."
The Foundation cites a lack of uniform federal or state regulations over slope and trail safety. Although most skiers - like more drivers - assume the pathways will be safe for people to travel, the ski trails are in reality much different from one to the next.
Each resort is largely able to make its own determinations on how to best insure safe trails on its own hills, which is wholly inadequate, according to the Foundation.
What Do The Resorts Think?
Michael Reitzell would certainly disagree. As president of the California Ski Industry Association, Reitzell claims that ski resorts "follow rigid standards and protocols established by state and federal regulatory agencies." The Davis Enterprise article also mentions more than 30 organizations providing standards and best practices that cover all aspects of ski resort safety.
Reitzell points out the benefits of having regulations that all ski resorts follow while still maintaining the autonomy each resort needs to adapt to the nuances of its own slopes.
A Terrible Tragedy
Even if resorts have the autonomy they need to make their hills safer in theory, it seems more can be done to provide uniform regulations. One example is safety bars on ski lifts. According to an article in People Magazine , a woman and her two daughters fell from a chairlift on a Colorado ski resort, killing the woman and injuring her two girls.
At least one witness reports that the safety bar was not down on the moving chair lift at the time of the fall. Presumably, the safety bar would have prevented the fall.
The interesting thing to note in this article is that "Colorado and most other states do not require that chairlifts have restraint bars and only one, Vermont, requires that passengers lower the bar, according to the National Ski Areas Association, a trade group for ski operators."
Perhaps it is time to revisit the autonomous nature of ski resort safety. With a more uniform code of regulations, perhaps tragedies like this could be stopped.