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.