News » Whistler


By Bob Mackin Accidents like last year's Quicksilver lift tragedy at Whistler Mountain shouldn't have any impact on insurance rates for ski areas, according to one of the Pacific Northwest's largest ski resort insurers. Carl Neu, senior vice-president of Acordia Northwest Inc., Seattle, said day-to-day claims have a greater impact on insurance premiums than "a catastrophic, single event" like the one last Dec. 23 in which two people died and one person was paralyzed when four chairs from the Quicksilver lift fell to the ground. A coroner's report on the accident is awaiting release. Neu said Acordia insures more than 100 ski resorts in the Western U.S. including Aspen, Sun Valley, Mount Baker and Stevens Pass. "If that loss had occurred in our program would it have a material impact on our pricing?" Neu asked. "I don't believe it would." The Whistler accident has had a ripple effect in the industry, however. The manufacturer, Lift Engineering & Manufacturing Co. of Carson City, Nevada, sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from its creditors in July, seven months after the accident. Several areas across North America, including Whistler Mountain, have replaced Lift Engineering, lifts like the Quicksilver, that used the Yan 11 grip. A consortium of ski areas that have Lift Engineering lifts using the Yan 7 grip, including Whistler Mountain, are designing and manufacturing a replacement grip. "Every one of our clients is dealing rather dramatically with the issue and in fact are replacing or retrofitting the lifts with another manufacturer," Neu said. "We will not have in our program a lift that will run those grips next year." Neu said Acordia is not coercing its clients to change the grips, but it is working with them in a counselling role. He said insurance rates are levied two ways. A weekend resort would pay a principal based on lift revenues, while a four-season resort, like Whistler or Blackcomb, would pay a rate based on gross revenue. There are no significant rate increases this year, owing to a soft marketplace, he said. Whistler Mountain is insured by Marsh & McLennan of Vancouver. Neither Marsh & McLennan's Norm Duncan nor Whistler Mountain's David Perry were available for comment.