Connecticut state lawmakers have proposed new ski safety legislation that would impose safety mandates on skiers and ski areas. The legislation, pending in the state House, is seen as a response to a January skiing accident at Mohawk Mountain in Cornwall in which a boy fell from a chairlift and was hospitalized.
Connecticut has five ski areas. The pending bill would impose numerous mandates on skiers, including one making it illegal for them to throw or drop anything while on a lift, and expands current safety rules for ski operators. But it would also place additional duties on ski area operators – of particular note is the requirement of safety restraints (safety bars) on every ski lift chair and padding on snowmaking equipment and lift towers.
Ed Beckley, general manager of Mount Southington ski area, said he supports the measure. A co-sponsor of the bill said two Connecticut ski operators were involved in writing the bill.
But in written testimony to the Public Safety and Security Committee, Carl Swanback, a member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America and a 30-year veteran ski instructor, said the bill does not adequately address the issue of children and safety and should not be passed unless it contains measures to protect children.
The proposed legislation would ban skiers from:
- Undertaking any act that interferes with the running or operation of a passenger tramway.
- Using a passenger tramway without permission of operator.
- Placing any object in the skiing area or on the uphill track of passenger tramway which may cause a skier to fall.
- Crossing the track of a J-bar lift, T-bar lift, platter pull or similar device or a rope tow, except at a designated location.
- Departing from the scene of a skiing accident when involved in an accident.
- Failing to wear retention straps or other devices used to prevent runaway skis.
- Failing to use the restraint device on a passenger tramway.
Additionally, it mandates that ski resorts:
- Mark all trail maintenance vehicles and furnish the vehicles with flashing or rotating lights when moving throughout the skiing area.
- Mark the location of any hydrant or device in snow-making operations.
- Mark the entrance of each trail or slope with a symbol that is adopted or approved by the National Ski Areas Association. The markings should indicate the degree of difficulty for each trail or slope.
- Mark any lift tower that may be not readily visible on a trail or slope.
- Maintain one or more trail boards at prominent locations within the ski area. It should display the area’s network of ski trails and slopes and designate each trail of slope in the same manner.
- Post a notice at any entrance if maintenance personnel or equipment are being employed on any trail or slope during open hours.
- Make sure passenger tramways are equipped with restraint devices.
- Post the proper instructions regarding the use of a restraint device at the entrance of a passenger tramway.
- Make sure any hydrant, snow-making equipment, pipes and lift towers located within the borders of designated slopes, trails or areas approved for skiing be padded or protected.
The bill has been passed out of committee and now will be voted on by the state House.