A California NBC affiliate, NBC Bay Area, undertook an undercover investigation visiting seven Tahoe area ski resorts (Northstar, Heavenly, Boreal, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Sugar Bowl). Reporters asked to see the safety plan for each ski resort, plans which should detail the resorts’ signage policies, boundaries, trail designs, impact protection policies and safety measures.
Ski Safety advocates argue that ski resorts should be required to develop a safety plan outlining a resort’s accident prevention methods that is both detailed and available to the public. But the California Ski Industry Association maintains that safety is always a priority at California ski areas and that ski resorts already maintain detailed and voluminous safety plans. A spokesperson for association said visitors “can see them at the resorts.”
But employees at every resort NBC Bay Area visited said the requested information was not available. Instead, they handed out pamphlets outlining the skier responsibility code. One employee told NBC Bay Area to Google “skiers responsibility code” when asked to see the resort’s safety plan.
Several state bills have been introduced that would have required California ski resorts to make their safety plans readily available, including the most recent effort in 2013, but all past attempts have failed to become law.
After failing to obtain a single safety plan at a resort, NBC Bay Area again reached out to the California Ski Area Association to ask how the public can review these safety plans and ensure that resorts are managing hazards. An email response pointed out that the majority of California resorts are on public land and are regulated by the U.S. Forrest Service, suggesting that members of the public contact the USFS and request a copy of the operating permit.
Vail Resorts, which owns Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood ski areas, issued a similar, unhelpful reply:
Response to NBC Bay Area Report
The safety of our guests and employees is our number one priority at Vail Resorts. Our resorts that operate on National Forest Service Land have approved Winter Operating Plans that describe, among other things, the steps we take to minimize the risks inherent in our sport and make our resorts as safe as possible. These plans are publicly available through the USFS.