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Ski areas confident they’re taking right steps to reduce collisions

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Ski-related accidents in the Canada West Ski Areas region have declined by over 50 per cent in the past 20 years, according to area president and CEO Jimmy Spencer.

In the wake of a Colorado court sentencing of 22-year-old Nathan Hall to 90 days in prison for an on-hill collision that killed Alan Cobb, Spencer reported statistically improved safety conditions at Whistler-Blackcomb and most other Western Canadian ski areas, despite the apparent increase in on-slope collisions.

"We’ve worked extremely hard in this area, and I guess that court ruling south of the border just goes to show how important safety measures are," Spencer said this week.

In 1979, 2.8 million skier visits were reported by the Canada West Ski Areas Association, with 4.7 injuries recorded per 1,000 skiers.

But last year, according to Spencer, there were just 2.05 injuries per 1,000 skiers/boarders. And the number of skier visits to Canada West areas last season totalled 8.4 million.

"We’re adamant that our ski patrollers pick up anyone travelling down the slopes in a reckless manner," Spencer continued. "It’s worked fairly well, to the point where we have seen a steady drop in the ratio of accidents over time.

"The ruling in Denver probably doesn’t have many immediate ramifications here, other than that we must keep up proper policing of the slopes to make sure a tragedy like that doesn’t happen in our area.

"If we were to have something like that happen here, though, I couldn’t really see a charge of criminal homicide being handed down. But I’m sure the RCMP would look at something like criminal negligence."

Spencer said extra attention was now being paid to heightening safety in terrain parks, often the domain of the fearless, adrenaline-charged youngster attempting difficult jumps.

"We’re now going about making sure all jumps are clearly labelled with a degree of difficulty, so skiers and boarders know exactly what they’re getting themselves into," he said.

"It’s just another measure we’re taking. We also make kids read cards to understand just what their responsibilities are when they’re up the mountain. All in all, we’re pretty satisfied with the way we’re operating in regards to accidents.

"I don’t think it’s going to get to a point where we have to use speed cameras. But safety procedures are constantly updated and revised when deemed necessary."

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