California Skier Safety Legislation Passes State Senate

The California Senate has passed legislation amending the state’s Health and Safety Code to require ski resort operators in California to increase transparency of their skier/boarder safety programs, and the results of those programs. Seal of California

Resorts will be required to prepare an annual safety plan that conforms with the requirements of federal regulations applicable to resorts operating on federal property, whether or not that resort actually operates on federal property. Those annual safety plans will need to be made available to members of the general public on the day of the request.

Resort owners will also be required to disclose known information on incidents and fatalities related to any snow sports activity the resort provides. Incident information that will need to be disclosed includes Continue reading California Skier Safety Legislation Passes State Senate

Colorado’s Worst Avalanche in 50 Years Claims Lives of 5 Industry Pros

Highlighting the danger inherent to backcountry boarding and skiing, five industry professionals were killed in an avalanche at Loveland, the most tragic Colorado incident in 50 years. All were part of the Rocky Mountain High Backcountry Bash, an event that was put-on to help fund avalanche safety and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC).

2012 Loveland Avalanche Incident

According to a report from the CAIC, a backcountry touring party of six, on splitboards and skis, was caught in an avalanche in the Sheep Creek area near Loveland Pass. According to the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Department (CCC SD), the avalanche occurred on Saturday, 20 April 2013 at 1pm, on the north-northeast aspect of the Sheep Creek drainage of Loveland Pass, along US 6.

Four of the riders and one skier were killed. Each of those fatally injured was an expert boarder or skier, and was using the latest avalanche gear. Ski-Patrol.net analysis of CAIC data has found that 50% more people have been killed in the 2012-2013 season than the average of the preceding 3 seasons in Colorado. We have also found an alarming statistic that may be emerging in CAIC fatality data. While only 19.1% of skiers died (14 of 73) after being caught in an avalanche over the last 4 seasons, 37.93% of boarders died (11 of 29) after getting caught in an avalanche. Continue reading Colorado’s Worst Avalanche in 50 Years Claims Lives of 5 Industry Pros

BAA Publishes PTSD Backgrounder for Athletes and First Responder Victims

The Boston Athletic Association (BAA), the club sponsor of the 113th Boston Marathon where terrorists set off two improvised explosive devices, BAA on PTSDhas published information on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for marathon runners and event volunteers that might be showing symptoms of PTSD.

The signs, symptoms and effects published by the BAA are a good reference for ski patrollers that may be suffering from the cumulative effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder related to their work. The signs and symptoms include trouble sleeping or having bad dreams; recurring images and flashbacks; strong emotions, including guilt, anger, anxiety, fear or sadness; flatness of affect, or disinterest in life or routine; irritability; easily startled, feeling cautious; avoiding reminders related to the event; headaches, diarrhea, nausea, or other developing physical ailments; difficulty remembering the event; and substance abuse increases. Continue reading BAA Publishes PTSD Backgrounder for Athletes and First Responder Victims

Ski Patrol Volunteers Stuck in Legal Limbo

A new Denver Post report highlights the legal limbo that well-informed ski patrollers find themselves in when participating in rescue operations beyond the boundaries of resorts where they serve the skiing and boarding public.
Backcountry Patrolling
While many resorts allow their volunteer and paid patrollers to participate in rescues outside area “boundaries”, some Colorado resorts are washing their hands of the liabilities resorts may otherwise bear – even notifying paid patrollers that they are “off the clock” when they participate in off-piste rescues, working as “volunteers”. Back country public safety officials at the local, regional and national levels are now scrambling to plug that risk gap so patrollers are able to do their dangerous work without bearing the universe of liability, life and health risks personally Continue reading Ski Patrol Volunteers Stuck in Legal Limbo

NSP Responds to Denver Post Report on Resort Accident Investigation Conflict of Interest

The NSP has endorsed a response to the series of articles published by Denver Post reporter Karen E. Crummy. An NSP member news release on its Web site directs patrollers to a response by Dan Whiting, Chief Accident Investigator at Wolf Creek Ski Area, and NSP Executive Director Tim White has released an official NSP response. Both are posted on the “Club Colorado” blog. The YouTube video that accompanied the Whiting response is included here. The NSP and Wolf Creek responses, however, appear to miss the “conflict of interest” point of the Post series.

The Denver Post report criticizes the practice of resort accident investigations becoming de facto legal findings, and the fact that Ski Patrol representatives Continue reading NSP Responds to Denver Post Report on Resort Accident Investigation Conflict of Interest

Denver Post Publishes Scathing Review of Skier Safety

The Denver Post has published a three-part series of articles offering a scathing review of the skiing industry, with a focus on Colorado ski areas and “ski law”. Breckenridge Patrol

The first article, “Colorado system for investigating ski accidents raises concerns“, highlights the high degree of control that ski patrol and mountain management have over accident investigations on resort-owned and leased property.

The second in the series, “Colorado ski industry enjoys protection from law, waivers“, attempts to demonstrate that through effective lobbying, particularly in Colorado, resorts have been able to focus on limiting their exposure to liability through legislation, reducing the need for resort operators to Continue reading Denver Post Publishes Scathing Review of Skier Safety

Happy 75th Birthday NSP: Mission Accomplished?

Seventy-five years ago this week, two guys from Massachusetts met at the National Ski Races on Stowe’s Nose Dive trail and the National Ski Patrol (NSP) was born. 1938 Stowe Mens Nationals Cover

As the NSP enters its 76th year and reflects upon its legacy, ski patrollers serve a very different skiing population and group of industry stakeholders. In this article we explore whether the National Ski Patrol System has accomplished its mission, and pose the question, “Has the U.S. network of ski and alpine touring resorts now evolved to the point where it can more effectively assume the NSP’s mission to prevent skiing accidents and assist those sustaining accidents?”

The past may inform the future on that point. Continue reading Happy 75th Birthday NSP: Mission Accomplished?

Last First Tracks: Snowmass Memorial Held for Patsy Hileman

A memorial was held on 5 January for Patricia Mae “Patsy” Hileman of Snowmass Village, Colorado. Patsy, a 26-year veteran of the Aspen Ski Patrol, died in an avalanche on 30 December in the Ship’s Prow Glade, a backcountry skiing spot at Aspen’s Snowmass area. The memorial service celebrating her life was held on at the Elk Camp restaurant at Snowmass Mountain. Snow Mass Ship's Prow Approach

Hileman appears to have inadvertently triggered a portion of the “crown” from a previous avalanche that pushed her off the edge. She was skiing in a section of the Snowmass backcountry that is not explicitly open to the skiing public due to its inherent dangers. A previous avalanche at that location had been triggered with explosives by the patrol on 27 December 2012, three days before Hileman’s incident. While the avalanche was very small, it appears to have been of sufficient size to sweep Hileman, an expert skier familiar with that area, off the cliff’s edge. Continue reading Last First Tracks: Snowmass Memorial Held for Patsy Hileman

Casper Ski Patrol Sued by Parents of 5-Year-Old Killed in 2010 Incident

CASPER, Wyo. – A lawsuit has been filed in Wyoming’s Natrona County District Court against the City of Casper and the Casper Mountain Ski Patrol by the parents of a 5-year-old that was killed on Christmas Eve in 2010. Wyoming’s Spence Law Firm is representing the family. Gerry Spence, the firm’s legendary founder, is a civil rights attorney with a reputation that is well-known nationally.

Hogadon Ski Area
Hogadon Ski Area

Elsie Johnson was killed two years ago by a snowboarder, Craig Shirley, who also died in the incident at Hogadon Ski Area. Elsie and her mom, Kelli Johnson, were reportedly skiing on Dreadnaught, an expert run, and had stopped in the center of the trail when Shirley collided with them. Kelli Johnson was also seriously injured in the accident, and reportedly has no memory of the incident. Elsie Johnson and Craig Shirley, 23 years old, both died of blunt force trauma. Continue reading Casper Ski Patrol Sued by Parents of 5-Year-Old Killed in 2010 Incident

Thanks to a Few Friends and the Crystal Mountain Patrol, Emily Anderson Lives to Ski Again

Emily Anderson was enjoying one of the best runs of her life on more than 3 feet of fresh powder at Crystal Mountain in Washington on 18 December. Suddenly, everything changed. Emily could literally feel and hear a massive fissure form and break loose, triggering an avalanche. According to Emily, “You know, you hear a little pop when it starts to go.” Within seconds Emily was pushed into a tree and “encased”, unable to move in a seated position under several feet of snow. She had no transponder or avi air supply, and there was no indication that anyone had been on the trail. Ski Patrol “avi” experts know that only one in 3 survive under those circumstances. Emily noted in the ABC report, “I felt alone, like this could be it.” She added, “I’m very lucky. Everything about it went my way; that’s for sure.” Continue reading Thanks to a Few Friends and the Crystal Mountain Patrol, Emily Anderson Lives to Ski Again

Injured Copper Patroller Receives High Fives Foundation Grant

Long-time Copper Mountain Colorado ski patroller, Sally Francklyn, has been awarded a High Fives Foundation Winter Empowerment Program Service grant of $5,820 to help with her recovery from a traumatic brain injury sustained in a March 2012 backcountry skiing incident.

To continue raising funds toward her recovery, a “Super Sally Celebration” will take place at the Pink Garter Theatre in Jackson, Wyoming on 8 December 2012 from 6–10 p.m. The event will raise funds for the Teton County Search & Rescue, Jackson Hole Ski Patrol and those who have helped Sally in her continued recovery. Continue reading Injured Copper Patroller Receives High Fives Foundation Grant

NSP Lawsuit Dismissed: No End to Internal Battles On Horizon

NSP v NSP SettlementThe NSP officials that filed the NSP v NSP Complaint in August have now settled all matters related to that suit. The member list has been provided to the plaintiffs without the restrictions originally imposed by the NSP that violated Colorado law. The Colorado District Court for Jefferson County approved the parties’ requested dismissal, with each side agreeing to pay its respective court costs and attorney fees.

From the settlement filing approved by the court:

“The concerns of the plaintiffs have been resolved and all of the parties who have appeared in this action stipulate and agree, by their respective attorneys, pursuant to C.R.C.P. 41(a)(1)(B), that the Complaint and action herein shall be and is hereby dismissed, with prejudice, and that each party shall bear its own costs and attorney fees.”

The “with prejudice” notation confirms that the matter was settled to their mutual satisfaction and that neither feels the need to re-file on that issue. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like this matter is even close to being over, Continue reading NSP Lawsuit Dismissed: No End to Internal Battles On Horizon

Obituary: Theo Meiners, Alaska Rendezvous Heli-Guides Founder and Former NSP Northern Intermountain Division Avalanche Advisor

Theo Meiners, 59, a well-known Alaska heli-guide tour leader and snow science expert, died in an incident at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska on 20 September. Meiners fell more than 30 feet to his death when, according to witnesses, he appeared to be sliding-down the escalator rails between floors. Police are investigating the incident, and are seeking information from anyone that may have interacted with Meiners at the International Snow Science Workshop banquet being held at the facility that night.

Meiners worked during his career as a ski patrol trainer in Chile at Centro de Ski, El Colorado, and at Snow King in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He was the former NSP Avalanche Advisor for the Northern Intermountain Division. Continue reading Obituary: Theo Meiners, Alaska Rendezvous Heli-Guides Founder and Former NSP Northern Intermountain Division Avalanche Advisor

Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum Announces 2012 Hall of Fame Inductees, Including NSP Founder Minnie Dole

STOWE, Vt. The Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum has announced its 2012 Hall of Fame inductees. NSP founder, Charles Minot “Minnie” Dole, will be inducted into the hall of fame at a ceremony on Saturday October 20th at the kick-off of the National Ski Patrol’s 75th Anniversary celebration.

Jake Burton and Donna Carpenter will be the first snowboarders inducted into the hall since the museum added snowboarding to its name in December 2010. The 2012 group also includes D. Trowbridge Elliman, Thompson Hall and Tiger Shaw. The contributions of all inductees will be celebrated on October 21st at the Trapp Family Lodge.

Current Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum Chairman, Rick Hamlin, said, “This group of pioneers, athletes and special contributors embodies what the museum is all about. Their contributions represent Vermont’s critical role in the evolution of skiing and snowboarding.” Hamlin is also a former NSP Board member, Easter Division Director and Smuggler’s Notch Patroller. Continue reading Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum Announces 2012 Hall of Fame Inductees, Including NSP Founder Minnie Dole

Obituary: Service Planned for Loveland Ski Patroller, Mark Gage

Mark GageNSP Rocky Mountain Division Alpine Toboggan Supervisor, Mark Gage, died on Wednesday August 29 of a heart attack while on a mountain bike ride in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Gage, 53, was a 25-year member of the Loveland Volunteer ski patrol and in his “day job” was a community development director and senior planner for the Town of Frisco, Colorado. His wife Karen is also a member of the patrol. Colleagues, friends and family are invited to celebrate Mark’s life at 2:30 pm on September 15th at the Loveland Basin Lodge. The facility is located at Loveland Ski Area, exit 216, I-70, Colorado. A reception will follow the Saturday service. Continue reading Obituary: Service Planned for Loveland Ski Patroller, Mark Gage

Breckenridge Gets USFS Peak 6 Expansion Approval; Plans Include Ski Patrol Warming Hut and 2 New Lifts (Update)

BROOMFIELD, Colo. Vail Resorts (NYSE: MTN) the owner of Breckenridge, has received approval from the US Forest Service (USFS) for a 543-acre terrain expansion in the Peak 6 area of Breckenridge Ski Resort.

Breckenridge Peak 6 Expansion Area

Peak 6 will include 400 acres of lift-served terrain and 143 acres of terrain that skiers and boarders can hike-to. The Company expects to open the new terrain for the 2013-2014 ski season, including adding a new high-speed, six person chairlift and a new fixed-grip chairlift to access the Peak 6 area. A ski patrol warming hut with bathrooms is also planned.

According to Rob Katz, chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts, Continue reading Breckenridge Gets USFS Peak 6 Expansion Approval; Plans Include Ski Patrol Warming Hut and 2 New Lifts (Update)

Obituary: Service Planned for Copper Mountain Patroller

Copper Mountain, Colorado ski patroller Rocky Scott Miles died on 5 August in a house fire in Fenton Falls, Ontario, Canada. A memorial service will be held at the outdoor chapel by Solitude Station at Copper Mountain Ski Resort on Friday, 17 August at 10:30 AM.

Miles, 31, was a long-time resident of Summit County and an eight-year patroller at Copper Mountain. He is survived by his wife, Cecilia, and his three-year-old son, Oliver. Miles is originally from Abilene, Kansas, and graduated from Thornton High School in 1999. He has lived in Colorado since 1983. In addition to his ski patrol duties, he was a ski instructor and a firefighter at the Keystone Fire Department and ski tech at Precision Ski & Golf. He also worked for Alem International as a senior product specialist, marketing high-end exotic cars. He was also a jazz trumpet and guitar player, and a charcoal artist. Continue reading Obituary: Service Planned for Copper Mountain Patroller

National Ski Patrol: In-fighting Begins Anew

Minnie, they’re at it again! The organization founded in 1938 by Charles Minot “Minnie” Dole, the National Ski Patrol (NSP), has been sued again by 6 patrollers, 5 of whom serve on the 28,000-member organization’s National Board of directors.

Minnie Dole, 1940s

NSP watchers and members couldn’t forget, as much as they might like to, the last time this happened just 7 years ago. A group of Division Directors and patrollers was forced to sue the NSP in 2005 to have a say in how the organization was run, by electing their representatives on the NSP National Board. That group ultimately represented just under 8,000 NSP members before the organization relented and settled the litigation. That resolution led to a complete turnover of the NSP’s Board and National leadership team over 18 months. The settlement agreement resulted in a re-write of the NSP’s bylaws as it relates to member voting. Well, apparently old habits die hard.

The current suit was filed on 1 August 2012 in Colorado’s Jefferson County District Court, near the organization’s Lakewood headquarters. Continue reading National Ski Patrol: In-fighting Begins Anew

Patty (Tasker) Morris Interview: One of the NSP’s First Female Patrollers

Patty Tasker
Stowe Vermont, April 1937
Patty Tasker was just 18 when she moved to Burlington, Vermont from Brattleboro in the late 1930s to work for the government. Skiing was increasing in popularity at the time and two ski clubs near Stowe, the Mount Mansfield Ski Club and the Burlington Ski Club, were helping to attract a lot of young adults to Northern Vermont on the ski trains and via automobile on New England’s rapidly expanding highway network.

A girlfriend of Patty’s in 1937 kept telling her about this guy, Winston “Win” Morris, that she just had to meet. He lived in her friend’s apartment building and worked for the National Cash Register company (NCR) in Burlington. Win spent a lot of time at Stowe in the winter, and was affiliated with the mountain and the Mount Mansfield Ski Club. Win (and later Patty) was among the first ski patrollers of the Mount Mansfield Ski Club when it established one of the first US patrols around 1935, the organization that ultimately spawned the National Ski Patrol. Continue reading Patty (Tasker) Morris Interview: One of the NSP’s First Female Patrollers

Obituary: Heavenly Area Patroller Dies in Climbing Incident

Dr. Gary S. Dankworth, 60, a patroller and Toboggan Instructor Trainer at Heavenly Area in California and Nevada died in an incident after summiting 13,855-foot Norman Clyde peak in the Sierras.

An official from the Carson Tahoe Medical Center confirmed the news, saying, “The Carson Tahoe family is saddened by the news of Dr. Dankworth’s death. The past several days have been difficult and we, like the rest of the community, have been hoping for the best. We are a small, close knit community and tragedies within our medical staff affect us all. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family and we will do all we can to support them during this very sad time.” Continue reading Obituary: Heavenly Area Patroller Dies in Climbing Incident

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