Give skiers and riders more information, not less

A string of serious slope-side accidents over the past few winters leads us to believe Maine ski areas need to do more to better communicate with their paying customers and the public at large about the safety of their sport.

Much like the daily trail report that highlights what trails are open and current snow conditions, ski resorts should issue a daily accidents report.

Beyond the standard trail-rating system of easy, intermediate or expert that is subjectively applied from ski hill to ski hill based on all the available terrain of a particular location, this system would specifically identify the areas where people have had some trouble.

This report would highlight where accidents have occurred over the past 24- to 48-hour period and whether these accidents resulted in a minor, moderate or serious injuries.

While certainly not a winning marketing campaign, it would be a transparent and honest way to advise customers and guests as to what specific areas seem to be problematic and which trails have been smooth sailing.

Most resorts, covered by National Ski Patrol groups, collect much of this data already for insurance companies, and while it may be viewed by some as "bad advertising," many would see it as a valuable service, which would not only re-enforce any resort's commitment to safety but also increase customer loyalty.

If the resorts themselves are unwilling to do this, perhaps an outside agency, such as the National Ski Patrol, which, as a nonprofit with the mission of making the slopes safe and not beholden to the bottom line, could do this. Much like Consumer Reports ranks the safety of cars, child restraints, power tools, appliances, food, toys and more.

This kind of information provided to the riding and skiing public certainly gels with the NSP's creed of "Service and Safety."

Of course, any degree of accident can happen almost any place at any time, on the slopes or off, so the purpose of this type of report wouldn't be to lay blame to a trail or a resort, but to help inform and advise.

For skiers and riders new to a resort it would be a quick way to sort out which trails to hit first, which might best be avoided, especially if skiing or riding with novices or others with limited skills.

The posting of the data might also bolster the defense of any ski area frivolously sued for negligence.

Under Maine law, skiers and riders assume the "inherent risks" of their sport each time they purchase a lift ticket or pass. The clear and accurate posting of recent accident information would be one more bit of information that would have to be overlooked before a venturing where you may not belong.

It is safe to presume the conveyance down a snow- and ice-covered mountain may present some risks, especially for the unskilled, those beyond their skill level or those displaying behaviors devoid all common sense.

National sports injury statistics show skiing to be a remarkably safe sport. The fatality rate per million days of participation is only 0.68, which is less than half the fatality rate of swimming, excluding boating accidents, which is 1.86.

These daily reports would often appear with no reportable incidents on them, which would be "good advertising" for a ski hill and would further affirm how, by-and-large, the sport of schussing down the slopes is one of the safest things you can do outside.

editorialboard@sunjournal.com

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Comments

ERNEST LABBE's picture

Your thinking on this subject

Your thinking on this subject is a bit flawed. You did not include the left side of the brain factor. Advertising which slope had he most casualties would only increase the use of that trail. If the "bunny trail" were posted as the most dangerous trail it would see the most amount of traffic it had ever seen. Skiers would have to fin out why it is so chalening. It's just human nature. It is impossible to protect people from themselves.

David A. Gagnon's picture

You people have got to be

You people have got to be serious. Do you people realize how many  injuries occure because people refuse to ski at their level of expertise. I'm a former NSP skier and shift leader for local Maine ski resorts. The general public is of the opinion that they have paid for their right to go anywhere on the moutain regardless of their level of expertise. Closed trails are consistantly dropped into that are deemd unskiable by the NSP in their pre-opening sweep of the moutain. Skiers and riders are their own worst enemy because of their attitude. Granted the resort will at times make a questionable decision, but the general public consistantly challenges the NSP's athaurity on the hill when it pertains to how a trail is deemed safe or not safe for the general skiing public. There are reasons for the signage at the top of each trail. If your an intermediate skier and your dropping into a trail that is posted at expert level from sigle diamand to tripple diamand and you  head down into the trail anyway than your doing it at your own risk. There are reasons why certain conditions exists on those trails. When I  skied at Sunday River for example, I didn't need to be told what to expect if I dropped into an expert rated trail. I expected certain conditions to exist and skied to the level of the challenge. If I didn't feel like I was on my game that day, I stayed the hell out of those trails. People need to be made responsible for their poor decision making. The conditions that you receive over the radio that morning if your listening like you should be, are conditions that the NSP team on the mountain for that day, has deemd safe for the trails that will be open that day.

Kevin Murphy's picture

Most ski accidents happen

Most ski accidents happen because the skier is skiing on terrain that they don't have the skills for or are simply skiing too fast and out of control.  Stating that an accident happened at such and such a spot on a trail and hinting that the location was the problem is ridiculous.  If it worked, it would just push more skiers on to the already crowded other slopes, which is the other big factor and accidents.

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