Skico to offer new tips for skier safety | AspenTimes.com

Skico to offer new tips for skier safety

Brent Gardner-SmithAspen Times Staff Writer

In response to five fatal accidents at its ski areas this winter, the Aspen Skiing Co. is hoping to create more awareness about on-mountain safety.The primary way the company hopes to do this is by promoting a series of daily safety tips that elaborate on the basic rules of the skier’s responsibility code.The tips were generated by the ski patrol and include advice such as:-“During flat or low light, ski or ride slower and with extra caution;”-“If you ever fall in a wooded area or toward a fixed object, get your feet below you to protect your head and upper body;” and-“Think of a ski run like a street. You wouldn’t park in the middle of a street, nor would you pull into traffic without looking.”The Skico will designate a “tip of the day” and promote it on signboards at the base of lifts, on its Web site, on its morning television show, in local newspapers and in employee locker rooms. “I think it will help,” said Mike Kaplan, the Skico’s vice president of mountain operations. “It’s about awareness, and some of the tips are on things that aren’t necessarily apparent or intuitive.”The Skico also plans to put up additional signage on the mountains urging people to ski and ride responsibly and to “Know the Code.” That includes such basic rules of the road as “Always stay in control and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.”The five trauma-related deaths on local ski areas this winter have raised the issue of on-mountain safety, especially in regard to the use of helmets.But the Skico does not foresee making helmets mandatory for its customers, including children.”We want to maintain people’s ability to choose,” said Kaplan. “This sport is about free choice. It should be somebody’s choice.”But he pointed out the Skico is ahead of almost every other ski resort when it comes to actively recommending that its customers use helmets. And Kaplan said no ski area in the world at this point requires the use of helmets, even for children.Of the 40 new safety tips to be promoted by the Skico, one concerns helmets. It says, “Consider wearing a helmet, but remember it is only a second line of defense. Responsible skiing and riding prevents accidents; helmets can only lessen the impact.”It’s been an very unusual season in Aspen/Snowmass for fatalities from skiing-related accidents, which do not include deaths on the mountains from incidents such as heart attacks.Over the last 10 years, the Skico’s areas have seen an average of 1.3 fatal accidents per season. This winter’s five fatalities, four of them at Aspen Highlands, are a statistical aberration.And statewide, it has been a record winter for deaths at ski areas, as 13 people have died in ski accidents in Colorado.Skico CEO Pat O’Donnell said the new tips are the first step in what is likely to be a more pronounced campaign by the company to get safety messages out to its guests.O’Donnell said the company will work on the issue over the summer and that he is open to suggestions on how to heighten awareness of the responsibility code and other safety tips.