The following was submitted to the Denver Post by National Ski Areas Association President Michael Berry, but it is unclear whether it will be published by the newspaper.
To the Editors:
In Karen Crummy’s three part series on ski safety, billed as an “investigative” series, Ms. Crummy and the Denver Post do a terrible disservice to readers by what they omit in their coverage, and, in turn, reveal the bias and predetermined conclusions underpinning this distorted piece of journalism. Readers, especially skiers and snowboarders, deserve more from the Denver Post on a series dedicated to Colorado’s favorite pastime. Quite frankly, so does the ski industry, especially in light of their significant efforts on slope safety.
For example, Ms. Crummy employs a misleading sleight of hand when she asserts that ski areas “are not required to release death and injuries to the public.” But she fails to inform readers that we, in fact, do release fatality and injury data, voluntarily (Canada, by the way, does not release any data). Each year, the National Ski Areas Association, which represents the vast majority of the nation’s ski areas (and based right here in the Denver Post’s back yard in Lakewood), publicly releases end-of-season fatality and serious injury statistics compiled from ski areas. Unlike Ms. Crummy, NSAA also places these fatalities and serious injuries in context, comparing them to previous seasons, skier visits, and other recreational activities, to provide the public a better understanding of the risks of skiing or boarding.
Although the data inconveniently undermines her series’ overarching premise – more lawsuits and more government regulation will protect skiers and boarders from themselves – the unreported positive news is that skiing and snowboarding already enjoy an excellent safety record and do not need additional government regulation. Yes, skiing and snowboarding are inherently risky, and thanks to safety efforts by ski areas, they are comparatively far less risky than other familiar recreational activities. Since the Post wouldn’t cite this data, readers can read for themselves by visiting http://www.nsaa.org/press/industry-stats/.
In fact, NSAA provided this detailed information to Ms. Crummy weeks before her series ran, but she ignored it. Ms. Crummy refused to inform readers those skiers and boarders are far more likely to suffer an injury driving to a ski area than while skiing or snowboarding at the resort. Ms. Crummy refused to inform readers than in 2010-11 seasons – when resorts set a record for skier visits – there were more fatalities from lightening strikes than from skiing or boarding. Ms. Crummy failed to note that riding a chairlift is far less risky than riding an elevator. And Ms. Crummy cynically dismisses as a marketing ploy when ski areas point out that skiing is actually less risky than bicycling or swimming.
Indeed, the sport’s excellent record is directly attributable to the extensive efforts of ski areas to promote safety – another shocking omission in Ms. Crummy’s series. Ski areas police reckless skiers and riders, pull passes, educate guests, promote helmets, analyze injury trends, and advance safety through so many innovative programs, one would think it would have merited some inclusion in an objective piece of investigative reporting.
Also troubling was Ms. Crummy’s complete silence on the role of personal responsibility. Ski areas take significant steps in their operations to improve slope safety, but ultimately in a sport where the individual controls where and how he skis or rides, personal responsibility plays the largest role in slope safety. This is a seriously troubling omission, but not a surprising one, since Ms. Crummy is not a skier or boarder herself. We were astonished that in a three-part series, not one drop of ink was devoted to any mention of the role of personal responsibility or the Responsibility Code, the official safety code of the slopes in place for nearly 50 years, and enshrined as the foundation of nearly every state’s ski safety statute. Your readership knows intuitively that the personal responsibility of skiers and riders – far more so than higher damage awards against resorts or nanny-state regulation – is the best way to ensure the safety of all skiers and snowboarders.
Sadly for the Post’s readership, while Ms. Crummy’s silence was deafening, it loudly underscored her lack of objectivity and bias against an industry that is one of Colorado’s most important.
Michael Berry, President
National Ski Areas Association