Bill to up fines for Ski Safety Act violations passes state committee
SUMMIT COUNTY – Having spent 20 years with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, State Rep. Gary Lindstrom, D-Breckenridge, knows the worst that can happen when unprepared skiers and snowboarders duck ski area boundary ropes.He noted one particularly hairy spot, known as the Beavers near Arapahoe Basin.”We pulled a lot of bodies out of there, a lot of dead skiers,” Lindstrom said.He’s hoping the need for rescues and recoveries will reduce with the risk of a larger fine hanging over snowriders’ heads. Lindstrom is sponsoring House Bill 1250, which would raise the maximum fine for violating the Colorado Ski Safety Act of 1979 from $300 to $1,000.The pumped up penalty would apply to the entirety of the Act, including passing under ropes, riding a lift or skiing trails while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or leaving the scene of a skier collision before providing contact information.The bill unanimously passed the Committee on Local Government Tuesday and will head to the House floor to be debated by all 65 state representatives later this month, Lindstrom said.Summit County Undersheriff Derek Woodman and Keystone director of mountain operations Chuck Tolton testified in favor of the bill in front of the committee. Nobody spoke in opposition of the proposed bill.”The committee was concerned that it wasn’t strict enough and felt as though we should put total recovery of all (rescue) costs in the bill,” Lindstrom said.That likely won’t happen because the Mountain Rescue Association – the parent group of local search and rescue teams – is concerned that if the price tag is too high, people won’t call for help, he said.Talk of the need for a fine increase began to brew following November’s successful rescue of John Ryan, an Erie snowboarder who spent two nights in Jones Gulch, adjacent to Keystone’s boundary, said Summit County Sheriff John Minor.Minor, Woodman and Tolton began discussing the possibility of upping the outdated fine, and before long Colorado Ski Country USA, the County Sheriffs of Colorado and Lindstrom were onboard.”We came to the conclusion that we’ve done all the education we can do and we’re going to continue with education, but the deterrence factor needs to be ramped up a little bit,” Minor said.Current education includes signs at the ski areas, reminders of the Act on lift tickets and the promotion of Skier Safety Week, which is dedicated entirely to safety on the slopes, Minor said.Minor said he has begun talking with Summit County Judge Ed Casias about having guilty parties receive a deferred judgment, which would allow the fine to be donated to groups such as Flight For Life, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and the Summit Rescue Group, instead of going to the state.Whether or not that occurs will be up the judges and the district attorney, he said.If the bill passes, it will go into effect in August, Lindstrom said.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13625, or at email@example.com.
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