Colorado ski area transparency on accidents center of bill — The Know

A bill sponsored by two state senators that would require Colorado ski resorts to collect and publish safety plans and accident data is scheduled to be heard in a committee of the legislature next week.

Sponsored by Democrats Tammy Story of Conifer and Jessie Danielsen of Wheat Ridge, SB21-184 would require ski area operators to “adopt and disclose safety plans, disclose seasonal ski accident statistics and maintain an accident data database,” according to a summary of the bill on the general assembly’s website.

A group called Safe Slopes Colorado has been promoting the bill, which would update the Colorado Ski Safety Act of 1979.

“It’s very common-sense legislation,” said Russ Rizzo, a spokesman for the group. “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.”

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The Colorado Ski Safety Act of 1979 limits the liability of ski areas because of “inherent dangers and risks” in the sport. When skiers purchase lift tickets or season passes, they sign waivers assuming those risks.

“Automatically by buying that lift ticket, I cannot sue the ski industry,” Rizzo said. “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, with a membership that includes every Colorado ski area except for Wolf Creek and the five Vail Resorts holdings (Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte) declined to make chief executive Melanie Mills available for an interview, but the trade association released a harsh statement opposing the bill.

“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.”

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