Report shows safety measures vary widely at California ski resorts
LAKE TAHOE – When it comes to safety, not all California ski resorts are created equal, according to report released this week.
The nonprofit SnowSport Safety Foundation surveyed 25 ski resorts throughout the state last winter and found safety practices vary widely between, and within, ski areas.
“This report will provide consumers with valuable information regarding safety practices used at each resort to reduce potential for serious injuries through impact protection devices and trail design and maintenance,” said snow sports safety consultant and Truckee resident Dick Penniman in a Tuesday statement.
The survey was conducted by two-member teams who showed up anonymously and unannounced at resorts last year to generate a “snapshot” of what the resort’s safety measures would look like on a single day, according to the statement.
There are “virtually no” regulations requiring the signing and notification of trail hazards, according to the statement.
The report focuses on variables that could be objectively measured, such as what injury mitigation measures are employed and to what extent, Penniman said during a Friday phone interview.
Examples of injury mitigation measures include signs, warning markers, pads and traffic-management fences.
Skier safety could be improved if safety measures were standardized among resorts, Penniman said, using the example that there would be a lot more car crashes if road signs were not standardized between California and Nevada.
California Ski Industry Association Executive Director Bob Roberts disagreed, saying overall skier safety benefits from each resort being able to create its own safety plan based on specific needs.
Safety is more complex than just signs and pads, and every California resort has “very extensive” safety plans, Roberts said.
“Safety is incredibly important to us – it’s really our top priority,” Roberts said.
Issues contributing to potential danger on the slopes, such as weather conditions, equipment, crowd size, and a skier or snowboarder’s ability, were not included in the survey because they could not be objectively quantified, Penniman said.
The report is not intended to point fingers at any individual resort, he added.
The college professor and avalanche safety instructor said the survey was conceived as an educational tool to give ski resort customers an idea of what safety measures are in place at each resort in California and what safety measures they should be looking for when they head to the slopes.
Penniman gave the example of a school ski trip leader as someone who might be able to use the report as a tool to select a ski destination.
Lake Tahoe’s South Shore resorts were neither the best nor the worst scorers in the report’s two major categories of “trail design and maintenance” and “impact protection.”
Heavenly and Kirkwood Mountain Resort received above-average marks for trail design and maintenance, while Sierra-at-Tahoe received high marks for impact protection. Only the California side of Heavenly was reviewed in the report.
Kirkwood Mountain Resort spokesman Michael Dalzell said he has not looked at the report in detail, but said Kirkwood is “very focused” on safety and exceeds National Ski Area Association safety standards.
To view the full report, visit: http://www.snowsportsafetyfoundation.org and click on “research.”