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: the age of anyone fatally injured; the activity that individual was engaging-in; the location at the resort where it occurred; and the name of the facility where medical treatment was provided to the injured party. The law does not impact the assumption of risk doctrine that applies to associated activities.

Article 3 Language:

Article 3 (commencing with Section 115815) is added to Chapter 4 of Part 10 of Division 104 of the Health and Safety Code, to read:

Article 3. Ski Resorts
A ski resort that operates in California shall do all of the following:
(a) Prepare an annual safety plan that conforms with the requirements of federal regulations applicable to ski resorts operating on federal property.
(b) Make the annual safety plan available to the public at the ski resort, upon request, the same day the request is received.
(c) Make available to the public, within 30 days of receipt of a request, a monthly report containing the following information, if known:
(1) A description of each incident resulting in a fatality that occurred on the ski resort property and resulted from a recreational activity, such as skiing, snowboarding, or sledding, that the resort is designed to provide.
(2) The age of each person fatally injured in an incident identified in paragraph (1), the type of recreational activity involved, the cause of the fatality, the location at the resort where the incident occurred, and the name of any facility where medical treatment was provided. The report shall not identify a deceased person by name or address.
(d) This article does not change the existing assumption of risk doctrine as it applies to ski resorts.

The full text of the bill, as amended, can be found on the California Senate site here.

Similar language has been proposed in the past, only to be killed at various stages of the process. The current iteration of the bill, proposed by Democratic Senator Bill Monning of Carmel, California, follows a versions that were vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger. According to the Associated Press, the bill is supported by the California Ski and Snowboard Safety Organization and medical groups, but is opposed by the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). They reportedly fear an increase in the number of lawsuits. advocates support in principle for associated disclosure of accident data. Transparency will benefit the cause of skier safety, since knowledge of accident statistics allows skiers to make more informed decisions about where to ski and board safely, avoiding the most dangerous and unsafe trails and areas if they choose to. Publishing mortality and injury statistics also allows this information to be analyzed by safety researchers. These insights will ultimately result in safer equipment, and a safer skiing and boarding experience.