New bill seeks to update the Colorado Ski Safety Act of 1979.
Democrats Tammy Story of Conifer and Jessie Danielsen of Wheat Ridge, Colorado, are sponsoring a bill, SB21-184, would require the state’s ski resort operators to make public safety plans and seasonal ski accident reports. Safe Slopes Colorado has been promoting the bill, and updates the Colorado Ski Safety Act of 1979, which limits liability of ski areas because of “inherent dangers and risks” in the sport.
“It’s very common-sense legislation,” said Russ Rizzo, a spokesperson for the group of making public safety plans and accident data. “I think any consumer, any skier, any parent, any grandparent can understand this. When we engage with people, it’s common sense for the normal person, that of course we should have transparency in any industry where we entrust the safety of our kids.”
The bill updates the 1979 act, specifically, by requiring each area to “adopt and publish, in printed form and on the ski area’s website, if any, a safety plan specifying the governance, management, and operational roles, responsibilities, and practices of the ski area to prevent accidents and reduce the frequency and severity of injuries; and requiring ski areas with an elevation drop of 500 feet or more and at least one elevated lift to: Collect and disseminate seasonal data on ski and snowboard accidents and deaths, including those occurring while boarding or exiting lifts; and collect and make available, upon request, specific information about each accident, including where and when it occurred, the conditions at the time, the type of injuries and whether death occurred on site or following medical transport, and specified nonprivate information about the injured person.” The bill makes “any failure to create, maintain, and publish a safety plan or provide the required reports or data grounds for discipline by the passenger tramway safety board.”
“Automatically by buying that lift ticket, I cannot sue the ski industry,” Rizzo said of the original legislation. “You’ve got no chance of suing the ski industry. There’s no chance of legal liability. We’ve already accepted that as a consumer, because we’ve bought the lift ticket. Now, as the consumer, what expectations might I have? Might I have the expectation that you share with me any safety plan you might have? Might you tell me what you do to prevent preventable accidents? Might you share with me data you already collect on accidents that happen at your resort? Is that a reasonable expectation for a consumer? If your answer is yes, you support this bill.”
Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA), however, opposes the measure. Founded in 1965, the not-for-profit trade association represents 22 ski and snowboard resorts in Colorado. CSCUSA primary functions involve marketing, public policy, and public relations within the industry. Colorado hosts between 20 and 25 percent of all skier visits in the U.S. annually, with CSCUSA member resorts accounting for more than 7 million skier visits a year.
“Colorado Ski Country USA and its member ski areas prioritize guest safety every day without exception,” the statement said. “They also continuously educate guests about ‘Your Responsibility Code’ and the inherent risks of the sport. Senate Bill 21-184’s proponents, including Dr. Dan Gregorie from California, have a history of sensationalizing isolated data points and incidents in order to pursue a policy agenda that will scare prospective skiers and do nothing to improve skier safety. We’ve seen this effort fail in other states and we expect it to fail here. We look forward to talking with policymakers at the Colorado Capitol about the facts.”