California Ski Industry Association releases Mountain Safety Guide |

California Ski Industry Association releases Mountain Safety Guide

Snowboarder Austen Thibault catches air during the epic winter season last year.
Bill Rozak / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

The California Ski Industry Association wants people to visit the slopes more often, and keeping guests healthy during their visit is one way to keep them coming back.

That fact was part of the drive that led the association, also known as Ski California, to create the Mountain Safety Guide, a first-of-its-kind, pocket-sized, waterproof guide with fundamental safety tips. The guide, which was officially unveiled Wednesday, was a collaboration with the association’s 32 members — a list that includes Heavenly, Kirkwood and Sierra-at-Tahoe.

The Mountain Safety Guide has been in the process for more than a year and was completed to “share a more unified safety message that guests can get from our member resorts and take with them anywhere,” Michael Reitzell, president of the California Ski Industry Association, told the Tribune Friday during a phone interview. “It wasn’t related to last year’s snowfall but that certainly helps get our message out there.”

It’s a guide geared toward all skiers and snowboarders but will be of better use to people who infrequently hit the slopes.

Some snow safety proponents, while admitting that the information is useful, don’t think the guide goes far enough. Dan Gregorie, the president and founder of SnowSport Safety Foundation, is one of those people. His foundation, created in 2008 after his 24-year-old daughter’s death at Alpine Meadows, visits resorts and gives each of them safety grades after calculating 16 different criteria.

“It’s much ado about nothing new,” Gregorie told the Tribune. “It’s the same stuff, and it’s all good stuff, but it’s only half the equation. It talks all about what the skier can do but it doesn’t talk about the resorts and what they’re doing to minimize risk.”

Reitzell, who disputes the motives of the SnowSport Safety Foundation, said risk is an inherent element of skiing and riding. At the end of the day, most safety issues come down to guests’ decisions.

“Mountain safety is a partnership between guests and resorts,” Reitzell said. “It’s not a marketing piece, it’s a safety piece. Skiing or riding is fun and exciting, but it does have risks and this is a tool to educate about safety. All resorts make safety an essential priority, and they are committed to addressing safety every day in their operations. I think the guide sends a powerful message because this is the first time our resorts have come together with one all-encompassing educational platform. We believe that the guest decision making process of what they do on the mountain is 95 percent of safety.”

The fold up guide will be available from member resorts as well as online in a downloadable version at It covers what people should do before hitting the slopes, such as gear, clothing and knowing personal limitations, and then moves on to information for once you are at the resort, like avalanche, deep snow, lift safety and universal trail signs.

Ski California member Sierra-at-Tahoe, who was recognized in January by Ski Area Management Magazine for the Best Deep Snow Messaging in emails, thinks the new guide is “wonderful.”

“Safety is our top priority,” said Thea Hardy from Sierra. “We do not cut corners when it comes to keeping our guests and employees safe and do our best to eliminate possible threats. From a marketing standpoint, we put much emphasis on safety messaging. While we still want to promote the fun and quirky elements, we’re transparent about risk. The safety guide solidifies our commitment to safe practices and gives us tangible materials to help communicate our standards.”

The guide will be complemented by a series of public service announcement videos featuring Olympic gold medalist Maddie Bowman, who calls Sierra-at-Tahoe her home mountain, and professional snowboarder and founder of Protect Our Winters Jeremy Jones.

The video announcements are separated into three categories: safety education for children and their parents; being “Park SMART” in terrain parks; and specific guidance for new skiers.

The Mountain Safety Guide is supported by the Association of Professional Patrollers, the National Ski Patrol, the National Ski Areas Association, the U.S. Forest Service, the American Association of Snowboard Instructors, the Professional Ski Instructors of America, the Sierra Avalanche Center, the High Fives Foundation and lead sponsor KÜHL clothing, Reitzell said.

“This guide is designed to help the millions of guests be our resorts’ partners in safety,” Reitzell said.

UPDATE: All resorts have committed to use the printed or digital version, or both. This story initially said, “The fold up guide will be available at every member resort.”

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