Alliance for Skier and Rider Responsibility holds second safety summit
FRISCO — The Alliance for Skier and Rider Responsibility hosted their second safety summit at the County Commons in Frisco on Wednesday night, inviting concerned citizens from around the state to ask questions and share their thoughts on improving safety on the slopes.
Visitors were treated to a panel discussion on ski safety topics from three area experts during the meeting, but were first filled in on the Alliance’s goings-on since the group formally introduced itself to the community last January.
“We’ve been on a roll,” said Katherine Jeter, the Alliance’s founder. “Since the last safety summit in January, we’ve since been incorporated, and we’ve gotten our non-profit designation. Our bylaws are almost finished and we have a charted plan. …
“We’ve opened up dialogue with the (National Ski Areas Association), and we’ve got our first corporate sponsor. I’m very excited and encouraged by all the community interest.”
Jeter started the group in March 2018 at her Frisco condo, after a collision at Copper Mountain Resort left her with two broken legs and a broken ankle a year earlier.
In addition to formalizing things internally for the organization, the Alliance has also taken some concrete steps to try and improve skier safety here in Summit County, including teaming up with property management companies like Summit Mountain Rentals and the Summit Resort Group to place skier safety packets in thousands of rental properties throughout the county.
But as the group’s reach continues to grow, the Alliance is hoping to push more educational efforts to the community, such as teaching the area’s youth about skiing safety, what local resorts are doing to improve safety on their own mountains and what the legal process looks like following a collision.
To that end, visitors to the safety summit were given a chance to ask questions to local experts, including Team Summit’s Snowboard Program Director Matt Voegtle, Keystone’s Senior Mountain Operations Director Julie Rust and long-time ski patroller and personal injury lawyer Jeffrey Burns.
Voegtle, who said he also chaired the safety committee for Team Summit, walked guests through how the group works to assure their athletes keep healthy, and serve as positive role models on the slopes.
“I’m sure many of you have heard safety, fun and learning in regards to snow sports,” Voegtle said. “That’s no different from the things we do. When someone is hurt that’s not fun. We want to see our athletes progress to the highest level, and when they’re on the sidelines they’re not progressing. So safety is super important for our athletes and coaches.”
Voegtle stressed that ski and snowboard athletes, along with those taking to the mountains more recreationally, all benefit from proper nutrition and physical fitness, and that the group’s athletes train year round to assure they’re strong and ready to make turns as soon as resorts open up in the winter.
Though, Voegtle also noted that with ever-changing trails on the mountain, it’s important for skiers to make sure they’re able to handle the conditions and that their equipment is properly tuned. He said ultimately educational efforts are still the most vital piece of improving ski safety standards.
Voegtle said Team Summit engages in weekly safety messaging with their athletes — everything from fitness, emphasizing different points of the Skier Responsibility Code and more — along with offering weekly and monthly awards to high-character athletes who set good examples on the mountain.
Rust, who served as a ski patrol director before taking her current position at Keystone, discussed some of the steps ski areas throughout Vail Resorts are taking to improve safety.
Rust said in addition to mountain safety programs and regular circulation by ski patrollers looking for potentially dangerous individuals, mountain directors around the country like herself are in constant communication to highlight trends and new ideas to update safety standards.
“I really want to talk about the power of our best practices,” Rust said. “I started my day in Beaver Creek with patrol directors from Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone talking about safety. The last time we met was just last week, but anytime we think we’ve got something to talk about we talk about it.
“At the end of that we had a call with 13 other resorts to talk about trends and incidents with our employees. The idea is to take our enterprise hats, put them on and learn from each other. If someone else is doing something great — like with some new signage — you better believe I’m out there taking pictures of them and we’re going to talk about it.”
Of note, the Alliance of Skier and Rider Responsibility honored Keystone Resort with their inaugural Safe Slopes Award at the summit, lauding the ski area for continuously promoting safety improvements on the mountain.
Jeffrey Burns, who’s served as an attorney in Summit County for the last 22 years, led a discussion on the legal ramifications of collisions on the slopes and what victims should keep in mind in the event they’re hit — including speaking with an attorney, holding onto the clothes and equipment you were hit in, and doing what you can to make sure you identify the offender.
At the end of the meeting participants were left with a call to action from Copper’s Mountain Safety Supervisor Shauna Bocksch, who urged everyone heading up the lifts to take personal responsibility for their own behavior, and make sure they’re in control.
“We’re hearing a lot that we need more ‘Know the Code,’ more education and more awareness,” said Bocksch. “But I really think we need to look hard at ourselves and our behavior. … We need to be thinking about that and taking responsibility, owning it and doing things within our ability. … I challenge all of you to think about what you can do.”
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