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Mountain Spy November 2014 Safety on the Hill

 

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In this month's Mountain Spy, we tackle what has been a hot topic recently—safety on the hill. Surprisingly, resorts didn't have very reassuring answers.

 



THE QUESTION: A FRIEND OF MINE WAS INJURED LAST YEAR WHEN ANOTHER SKIER RAN INTO HER. I SKI WITH MY FRIEND’S KIDS AND WAS WONDERING WHAT YOUR AREA DOES TO ENSURE SAFETY?

MOUNTAIN 1, VT

First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: I’m not sure how they would address that. I mean we usually have ambassadors and stuff like that out on the mountain. And then, of course, if they see people going too fast, not going with the flow, stuff like that, they will pull them over. Warn them if they’d had a couple. I do know they pull their passes and tickets. Other than that I’m not sure what other process they go through.
SAM: OK, yeah. I think I’ve seen those guys. So you just have people out on the mountain that monitor how people are skiing?
Staff: Correct. Yup. Definitely.
SAM: OK, well I guess I’ll just keep an eye out for those guys.

RATING: 3
COMMENT: “IF THEY’D HAD A COUPLE?!” SO NOW I SHOULD WATCH OUT FOR INTOXICATED SKIERS AND RIDERS? THANKS FOR UPPING MY CONCERNS.

MOUNTAIN 2, NH

First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Well, huh, we always have ambassadors and our ski patrol out there all the time to ensure safety.
SAM: OK.
Staff: You know that’s very unfortunate that that happened. But the patrollers and ambassadors are really excellent. And not only the patrollers, but even the people who teach the ski lessons. Everyone who works on the mountain looks for skiers who are out of control and reports them. And if they do get reported or even if a guest reports them, they’ll get their pass or ticket pulled for the day, or forever depending on how crazy they are.
SAM: OK. So everyone is on the lookout?
Staff: Any employee out there on the mountain is looking for people who are skiing out of control or crazy. Just to make sure our other guests are safe. If everyone is on the lookout, not just our patrollers, that’s more power to ensure safety.
SAM: Gotcha. So you basically have all employees on the lookout and I could report someone if needed?
Staff: Absolutely, you can.
SAM: All right. Thanks..
Staff: Yup, sure. And even if you just went down to the lift operator it triggers something from there and we get people looking for the jacket or the helmet or whatever they look like so we can reprimand them.
SAM: OK, thanks so much.

RATING: 8
PATIENT WITH A GOOD EXPLANATION OF PROCEDURES.

MOUNTAIN 3, VT

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: I mean there’s ski patrol. Unfortunately, like, there’s not, you know, like it’s not like there’s people on, literally, you know, like, necessarily on each trail at all times. But if and when something ,like, does happen, we’ll contact ski patrol and hopefully ski patrol can come to the scene immediately and can talk to the person that was out of control. (And they typically, like, depending on, like, the severity of the issue, they might take their ticket or season pass or, you know, it all depends on what the situation is. But they’re, like, pretty strict when it comes to that because there’s, like, signage everywhere saying anytime there’s merging trails to slow down and all that kind of stuff ‘cuz that seems to be, like, where it happens.
SAM: Right.
Staff: So, yeah, there’s signage and ski patrol is aware and they’re definitely out and about and easy to contact.
SAM: OK. So ski patrol is out and about.
Staff: Yeeeah. And if they’re not on the trail you know they’re in, you know, like, we have a different, like, I don’t know what to call it, like ski patrol shacks on each mountain. So they’re always on radio, so if you ever had to call them we can get them to you, like, really quickly.
SAM: OK, great. Thanks.

RATING: 5
COMMENT: THAT WAS NOT, LIKE, SUPER CLEAR.

MOUNTAIN 4, UT

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: HAHAHAHAHA. Um, gosh. That’s a loaded question. Yeah, skiing is an inherent risk of, yeah, there’s not a whole lot you can do about collisions. But a collision is treated just like an accident. You have to gain information from both parties, ski patrol would be called. There’s hundreds of things that we do to try and ensure skier safety, but at the end of the day, the thing on the back of your lift ticket states that you’re doing an activity that has an inherent risk of bodily injury or death.
SAM: I get that, but she was stopped and some crazy skier blatantly just ran into her. So are there people on your mountain that are keeping their eye out?
Staff: Oh yeah, that’s what ski patrol is for. They do slow skiing designated areas. I’ve worked at numerous resorts and it's the same everywhere, but unfortunately people do get out of control and run into people all the time and cause damage or even death sometimes. (Hold SAM: Um, well yeah, that’s what I’m trying to avoid.
Staff: But, yeah, there’s, um, yeah, I mean, that’s why there’s posted slow skiing areas and patrol actively looking for people who are disobeying that and all sorts of stuff.
SAM: OK then, I guess that’s it. It just seems like people on the hill today are not as respectful and aware as they used to be.
Staff: Yeah, I mean there’s, um, you’ll see a lot of that with snowboarding and skiers and different things of that nature. I’ve been skiing since I was three and, unfortunately, you see it every year and it’s just one of those things you just can’t control. But I mean every mountain takes fast skiing in slow areas very seriously and tries to eliminate it as much as they can.
SAM: OK. Well then I guess I’ll leave it up to your patrol.
Staff: Hopefully, yeah. Hopefully she has a better experience next time.

RATING: 4
COMMENT: WOW, DOCTOR DEATH, A LITTLE BIT OF POSITIVE REASSURANCE WOULDN’T HURT, AS WELL AS NOT LAUGHING AT ME!

MOUNTAIN 5, MI

First contact: Automated machine.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Umm, you know that really doesn’t happen that often. We don’t know really many instances where that’s the case because of another skier.
SAM: OK.
Staff: But, um, we do have, like, you know, the ski patrollers on site, um, and the first step is, you know they’re always on the hill patrolling and if they see anything they’re supposed to report things.
SAM: Right. So you guys just have patrollers on the hill and you don’t think it happens very often?
Staff: It really doesn’t. Like I said, the patrollers are patrolling the hill throughout the day and if any of the lift operators see anything out of the ordinary they’re supposed to report things.
SAM: OK.
Staff: Yeah, and it’s also the responsibility of the skiers themselves to, you know, keep an eye out on the environment around them as they’re skiing, too.
SAM: Sure, I know you can’t control how other people drive a car either, but for those who ski completely out of control, I was just curious how they are handled or monitored.
Staff: Yeah, and you know there’s really, like, I said if someone notices something would be the only thing, um, ah...
SAM: Um, OK. So just keep an eye out.
Staff: Yeah, it’s keep an eye out and it’s always a ski at your own risk type of thing, too. But we always try and have people keeping an eye out as well.
SAM: OK, thanks.

RATING: 4
COMMENT: KEEP AN EYE OUT!

MOUNTAIN 6, MA

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
[Hold time: 12 minutes and counting! Hung up.]

RATING: 0
COMMENT: COME ON, 12 MINUTES?! IT’S THE SLOWEST TIME OF YEAR, TOO!

MOUNTAIN 7, MT

First contact: Automated machine.
Answering phone: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. Unfortunately, those things do happen now and again, and there isn’t too much we can do about it. I want to say that we can just stop those kinds of people in their tracks, but once they’re hauling down the mountain it’s hard to just stop them, you know?
SAM: I guess so. I just am wondering what is being done to avoid that from happening in the first place.
Staff: Well we try our hardest with skier responsibility code signs throughout the mountain—napkins, bathroom signs, you name it. And from there our ski patrol is monitoring the mountain throughout the day, specifically looking for people like that to try and avoid any accidents.
SAM: OK. So there’s education signs and patrol?
Staff: Yup, exactly. It’s hard to control that many people throughout the day, but we try our hardest and hope you come back.
SAM: I will, thanks. I guess I’ll just keep a head’s up for who’s skiing around me.
Staff: Yes, for sure. Being aware can make a big difference.

RATING: 9
COMMENT: THE ONLY ONE TO DISCUSS EDUCATION EFFORTS, AS WELL AS ON-MOUNTAIN PATROL, WHILE ALSO EXPLAINING THAT IT IS ALSO INCUMBENT UPON THE GUEST TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY, TOO.
IDENTITY REVEALED: BIG SKY

MOUNTAIN 8, VT

First contact: Automated machine. Chose “live body.”
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: I mean, we can’t really control how other people ski down the mountain. Certain trails are for people who are advanced, so some trails—you know, we have kiddie trails where they do lessons. How old are the kids?
SAM: They’re 10 and 11 and they’re pretty good little skiers, so we go all over.
Staff: Right, yeah. Of course we want everybody to be safe and be respectful of other skiers, but on the other hand we can’t really control what other people do when they’re coming down the mountain. Um, it’s hard to really say.
SAM: Yeah. I mean if someone is out of control I guess it’s hard to control them in the moment.
Staff: Right, yeah. We do have ski patrol and people who try to keep a watch for things, and if they do see something they’ll speak up. But lots of times when people come down the trail, we can’t say “hey, slow down,” because of a kid, you know it’s hard.
SAM: Um, OK. I guess I’ll just have to keep my head on a swivel!

RATING: 4
COMMENT: THAT WAS SO NOT REASSURING.

MOUNTAIN 9, MN

First contact: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Um, we do have ski patrol. Um, and they are on the mountain all day while the ski hill is open. There are, um, posted rules and regulations, but other than that when you do arrive at the ski hill you do sign a liability waiver soooo you know, basically saying that we can’t be held liable. But like I said, the rules of the ski hill are like, on the ticket passes and season passes, they’re posted everywhere.
SAM: OK.
Staff: If you are found to be breaking the rules repeatedly or one of the big ones you do have your pass revoked.
SAM: OK. Well, I just wanted to check what the protocol was I guess for skier safety.
Staff: Yeah, um, like I said we do have the ski patrol and lift operators and ticket checkers. So if any of our employees see anybody breaking the rules it is taken care of.
SAM: OK, thanks. I just wanted to call and double check.

RATING: 3
COMMENT: UM, UNENTHUSED AND DISMISSIVE NEVER INSTILLS CONFIDENCE. AND, JUST SO I UNDERSTAND: SINCE I SIGNED A WAIVER, YOUR RESORT HAS WASHED ITS HANDS OF ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR MY SAFETY?

MOUNTAIN 10, VT

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Ok, um, now you said someone got hurt here?
SAM: Yes, my friend.
Staff: And you want to know what we do to protect people from that kind of thing?
SAM: Yeah.
Staff: Well, we have ski patrol that does go around and, you know, reprimand people who are going too fast or out of control, stuff like that. But as you know, even the police department can’t stop accidents from happening.
SAM: Right, I guess.
Staff: So you know, we have a very safe mountain here, but it does happen. We have people who go off the trail and hit a tree and get hurt bad. But with any kind of sport that’s going to happen. Um, but as far as kids we have certain sections. How old are your kids?
SAM: They’re 10 and 11 and pretty good little skiers, so we go all over.
Staff: Right. No, no we have ski patrol, and we also have medical people who, um, that also take that into consideration. We are, um, very good at watching for that kind of thing. You know, I’ve been here seven years now, and at one time when I first started here I was volunteering as ski patrol, and we stay on the mountain and check people’s equipment. Your kids should both be wearing helmets, correct?
SAM: Yes.
Staff: OK. Um, like anything else, we do have on the ticket telling everybody the risk factor and that you must ski in control. It’s ah—you know, I don’t know what else to tell you. We’re very conscious. We’re a small mountain and we do cater to families. Um, we do have a section where the snowboarders go and hang out. They have a T-bar and an all-terrain park, so most of the time the wild, crazy kids will be on the left side of the mountain.
SAM: Well she was hit by a skier, not a snowboarder, so…
Staff: Right. OK. So that’s also too, you know, I don’t know if you’re friend cut someone off, or they were out of control and they hit her. I mean, four years ago my wife was hit from behind out of nowhere and she tore her ACL and was out the rest of the season.
SAM: Yeah, those are the people I’m concerned about.
Staff: Right, yeah. I mean that’s ah, there’s nothing you can do. You could go after the person that hit her, but this time they just took off so you know, I mean. That’s the whole thing. You really can’t do anything else. OK?
SAM: Um, OK. I guess I’ll just keep my eye out.
Staff: There you go.

RATING: 5
COMMENT: SO: BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE. IS THERE A POINT AT WHICH SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE WILL RECOGNIZE THE NEED TO EDUCATE SKIERS AND RIDERS TO RESPECT OTHERS’ SPACE?

MOUNTAIN 11, MI

First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Well, hehe, because of the disclaimer on the back of the ticket, you pretty much take that risk as your own. As far as injuries or what type of?
SAM: Yeah, I was just wondering if there was any ski education I guess or what the area did to monitor skier safety.
Staff: Well, our ski patrol is pretty aware of mis-goings-on on the hill, and they will nip it in the bud. And if anything more than that is needed our manager will step in and set it straight. So we’re very much aware, but you can’t be everywhere all the time.
SAM: Right.
Staff: So, um, we do the best that we can, and there are really minimal instances like that, but unfortunately hers was one.
SAM: Yeah I mean the other person was totally out of control and that’s what I’m concerned about.
Staff: Well, the only other thing to do when that happens, it needs to be reported, especially if we’re not aware of the exact situation.
SAM: OK. Well, I just wanted to double check, and I guess I’ll need to be very aware.
Staff: Absolutely. And if you see anything that doesn’t look right to you, then just let the lift operators know at the bottom or top or let a ski patroller know. Basically, anyone that looks of authority, just let them know and we’ll get on it.
SAM: OK, thanks.

RATING: 6
COMMENT: VERY KIND AND PATIENT. BUT THERE’S THAT WAIVER THING AGAIN. AT LEAST THE RESORT FOLLOWS UP ON REPORTED MISDEEDS.

MOUNTAIN 12, PA

First contact: Automated machine.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: We have ski patrol out there each day. And they usually watch the kids; if they get carrying on like that they usually make them get off the slopes and pull their pass, stuff like that.
SAM: Um, alright. So ski patrol takes care of everything?
Staff: Yes. They do.
SAM: OK.
Staff: They have ski patrol and they also have, just a minute… they have mountain ambassadors which are lift security out there monitoring that all the time. (Silence…)
SAM: OK then, I guess I’ll keep my eyes open for those guys as well.
Staff: OK. Bye.

RATING: 2
COMMENT: 2 POINTS FOR ANSWERING THE PHONE AND MENTIONING SKI PATROL, MINUS 8 FOR SOUNDING LIKE YOU HAVE THE WORST JOB ON THE PLANET.

MOUNTAIN 13, CA

First contact: Automated machine. Chose “tickets.”
Answering phone: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Um, well, I mean we have our mountain safety department and they kind of make sure everyone is in control at all times and not going too fast. (Kind of make sure?!) And then there’s the common courtesy skier code: You know, if you’re going to pass somebody, you yell, “On your right!” or “On your left!”
SAM: Right, right.
Staff: Yeah, I mean, it’s a pretty family-oriented resort, so we try our best to cut down on those injuries.
SAM: Exactly. You guys do have a lot of families, which is why I just wanted to double check your safety procedures.
Staff: Yeah, I mean, they revoke their passes, they kick them off the mountain, and suspend them for a period of time. And then if they come back they’re reassessed.
SAM: OK. So it’s patrol that’s in charge.
Staff: Yeah, and our mountain safety department.
SAM: OK, then, I’ll keep my eye out for them, thanks.
Staff: Alrighty.

RATING: 4
COMMENT: DECENT INFORMATION, BUT OUR BOY SOUNDED HUNG OVER AND HALF AWAKE. A LITTLE PERSONALITY, BUDDY!

MOUNTAIN 14, CO

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Um, ski patrol. We have a lot of those guys out. And they’re out all day, every day, and they go around to every trail. Um, we also have just kind of employees look out in general. Things like that really… (Silence…)
SAM: OK. So your staff is on the lookout.
Staff: Yeah.
SAM: Alright. I was just wondering if there was anything done beyond ski patrol, I guess, or if that was it.
Staff: Um, that’s about all we do as far as I know. I haven’t been here during a winter yet, so it’s kind of past experience for me, but yeah, we take pretty good care of everyone on the mountain.
SAM: OK then, thanks.
Staff: Thanks, bye.

RATING: 2
COMMENT: “PRETTY GOOD CARE.” YEAH, THAT SHOULD CUT IT.

MOUNTAIN 15, UT

First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Well, geez. I’ve never had that question before. Um, our ski patrol is always on the mountain throughout the day looking for that sort of thing, and if they see someone skiing out of control or not respecting others, they will mostly likely pull their ticket for the day and explain why skiing in such a way is dangerous to everyone on the mountain. It can be really scary when you see someone like that on the hill.
SAM: Exactly. And I want to try and avoid coming into contact with them.
Staff: Oh sure, of course. Well you can count on our ski patrol! (Silence…)
SAM: Um, OK. Is that it then?
Staff: Well we do have a lot of them, so they are able to monitor the whole mountain.
SAM: Alright then, thanks.

RATING: 5
COMMENT: SUPER FRIENDLY AND COMPASSIONATE, AND IT’S NICE TO HEAR SOMEONE (FINALLY!) MENTION EDUCATION OF MISCREANTS. BUT SHE WAS OVERLY ANXIOUS TO GET OFF THE PHONE.

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