NSAA Industry Conference — Premise Liability

I attended the annual NSAA winter conference at Mt Snow, VT in January 2017, and thought that others might benefit from the notes that I gathered when attending the Premise Liability session.

Premise Liability

  • Review contracts with all vendors before they come on site.
  • All reports should be filed electronically so they can be located easily if required
  • Electronic reports are clear and do not require analysis of difficult to read handwriting
  • Releases should be specific to exactly what they are releasing. Do not use a general release.
  • Have your ASDA or in house attorney go over releases before using them.
  • Be sure there is wording that it is the parents responsibility to provide accurate information on their child when they sign a release.
  • If you have summer events be sure you have specific summer signage.
  • Train Staff to use “OBJECTIVE” criteria on reports. They should be fact finding not fault finding.
  • NEVER acknowledge liability when filling out a report
  • Have a written procedure for giving out copies of incident reports.
  1. Anyone signing a form is entitled to a copy at the time of signing.
  2. If someone calls for a report, get the request in writing signed by the injured party or the parent of an injured minor.
  3. Never give copies of a report to a third party.
  4. Don’t give a report of party a to party b in a multiple party accident.
  5. Only give copies of incident report, not follow up reports or accident investigation reports.

Email me if you want to discuss any of these topics in greater detail, by following this link to NH Region Safety Advisor…

NSAA Industry Conference — Mountain Safety

I attended the annual NSAA winter conference at Mt Snow, VT in January 2017, and thought that others might benefit from the notes that I gathered when attending the Mountain Safety session.

Mountain Safety Program

  • Look at 15 to 25 year old to get safety message out
  • Change your Social Media message regularly
  • Have an old lift on skis in base area to train young people how to load
  • Are your lift operators trained specifically on how to load small children
  • Some mountains have installed surveillance at lifts to monitor loading. This is used as a good teaching tool rather than for punishment.
  • Train ski school on where to sit on chair with small children.
  • Link your website to lidsonkids.org and www.kidsonlifts.org
  • Have a Safety Page on your website
  • Put a lift safety poster on the back of stall doors. More pictures less words.
  • Put Park Smart Language sign near entrance to park.
  • Include automatic helmet rental with ski or snowboard rental package. Have sign off for declamation of helmet.
  • Use individual S – M – A – R – T signs for your lift towers leading to the park entrance.
  • New NSAA video on collision of snowboarder with 5 year old and mother. Good to show employees at refreshers and to ski school at initial training.  Should be available for next season.  Previewed at Mt Snow.

Email me if you want to discuss any of these topics in greater detail, by following this link to NH Region Safety Advisor…

NSAA Industry Conference — Labor Relations

I attended the annual NSAA winter conference at Mt Snow, VT in January 2017, and thought that others might benefit from the notes that I gathered when attending the Labor Relations session.

Labor Relations

  • There have been 2wo individual Audits on ski areas concerning the use of Volunteers
  • Check to see if you meet the part time criteria for employees (FSLA Seasonal Exemption)
  1. One test is 2/3 of revenue during winter season
  2. Other test is 7 month operation or less
  • Have a separate employee handbook for Paid and  Volunteers
  • Be sure to reference the Humanitarian and charitable aspect of Ski Patrol in your volunteer handbook
  • Have employees sign waivers before allowing them to ski.
  • Have Spouse sign separate waiver. Husband cannot sign for wife and vice versa.  Be sure one    parent signs for all minor children.
  • Be sure to track the fair market value of goods and services volunteers receive to show that you meet the minimum wage requirement in kind.
  • If a volunteer brings suit under FSLA they can include the entire patrol weather or not other individuals want to be included.
  • Any employee injury resulting in death or in hospital stay must be reported to OSHA within 24 hours.
  • Any labor related problems should be discussed with your ASDA Attorney.

Email me if you want to discuss any of these topics in greater detail, by following this link to NH Region Safety Advisor…

NSAA Industry Conference — Modern Incident Investigation

I attended the annual NSAA winter conference at Mt Snow, VT in January 2017, and thought that others might benefit from the notes that I gathered when attending the Modern Incident Investigation session.

Modern Incident Investigation:

  • Look at the new NSAA Resource Guide for information on Incident Investigation.
  • Ask for photos or videos that may have been taken by bystanders
  • Criteria for an Incident Investigation
  1. Serious injury
  2. Life altering event
  3. Rentals involved
  4. Ski or Ride School (not covered by skier statute)
  5. Collision with other or fixed object
  6. Injured alleges neglect or threatens legal action
  7. Collision with snowmobile or other moving equipment
  • Take pictures of signs from point of sale to the injury site
  • Lift specific diagrams use Sketch up or other program not hand drawn sketches
  • Have an Incident Investigation checklist so you don’t forget things.
  • Tools available
  1. Accurate distance measuring device other than tape measure (Digital Range Finder)
  2. Theodolite APP $5.99
  3. Clinometer App $1.99
  • Have Canned Witness Statements
  • Have Point of Impact (POI) and Point of Rest (POR) available for pictures
  • Incident Investigation should be FACT FINDING not FAULT FINDING
  • 3 dimensional scanners are available for detailed presentations in court but they are very expensive. If you think you may need this technology talk with your insurance company regarding the specific accident and the circumstances.
  • Some areas are building elements out of dirt to reduce the amount of snow required and for summer bike use.

Email me if you want to discuss any of these topics in greater detail, by following this link to NH Region Safety Advisor…

NSAA Industry Conference — Employee Health Initiative

I attended the annual NSAA winter conference at Mt Snow, VT in January 2017, and thought that others might benefit from the notes that I gathered when attending the Employee Health Initiative session.

Employee Health Initiative

  • Mandatory helmet use. All on snow employees, allow them to purchase their own, or give them a rental one each time they go out on snow. This way you do not have to purchase one as you are making it available.
  • Fit for snow program used at Smugs, for Patrol Ski School and lift operators
  1. Begins preseason
  2. Studies show a high degree of injuries around 11am and between 2-3pm probably due to low blood sugar and dehydration.
  3. Should drink 72 ounces of water daily for proper hydration if working outside.
  4. Provide healthy snacks such as fruits and energy bars
  5. Water bottles handed out at beginning of season to all employees. Good sale item for guests.  Cost $1650. Per 1000 from SHADS.COM with imprint logo of your mountain. shads.com   Go to health and wellness then drinkware.
  1. Good meals with low fat protein, complex carbohydrate and green vegetables. Make price more attractive than unhealthy meal.  Guests may want to purchase at non discounted price. $10 to $14 Employees get 50% off on the healthy meals.
  2. Preseason talk with employees about need for healthy eating and hydration.
  • On employee accident gather more information than actually required by WC Forms. Find out things like:
  1. What they had to eat last and when
  2. How much they have had to drink today
  3. How much sleep they had to sleep the past night
  • Are we providing on snow employees with anti-slip foot devices (Yack tracks. Micros pikes) Parking lot, tubing, Patrol, outside snow removal personnel and other on snow employees.
  • Do ski testing for all on snow employees.
  • AT bots and bindings must be compatible.
  • After a workers Comp accident have supervisor appear before safety committee or Causal review and explain what can be done to prevent the same kind of accident in the future.

Email me if you want to discuss any of these topics in greater detail, by following this link to NH Region Safety Advisor…

Report on the NSAA (National Ski Area’s Association) 2015 winter conference

Report on the NSAA (National Ski Area’s Association) 2015 winter conference at Killington Feb 20th and 21st 2015
The following topics were discussed and may be of interest to your mountain operation.


Drones were of specific concern and quite a bit of information was discussed regarding the use of drones at a ski area.  After Sept or Oct 2015 drones flown commercially will be required to meet FAA regulations and will require a current, private pilot, to operate.  This means a private pilot’s license, Current flight physical and be current in take-offs and landings in a manned aircraft.

Additional insurance is required as General Liability policies usually exclude this type of operation.  It was recommended that mountains have a “NO DRONE” policy and post signs to that effect. Uses at a ski area include checking lift lines, trail conditions, marketing photos, and many others.

If guests operate drones on our property with or without our permission the mountain can be held liable for damages.  Commercial operation means being used for “compensation or hire” This means, for example,  that if someone was to do a photo shoot for say a wedding and was given a free dinner, it is considered commercial.

Commercial operators should have their own insurance to a limit the mountain is comfortable with, should have a hold harmless clause in their contract, and name the mountain as additional insured.


There is a new terrain park notebook on the NSAA website.

Items suggested included having a specific retention policy for all Terrain park records, pre and post loss measurements of elements and their location plotted on map of the trail,  have specific language used throughout the industry, mountain website should have terrain park info and warnings as well as what the user needs to know.

New signage and its location discussed. It was suggested that the old (Current) signs with the 360+ words be put in another location so it does not distract from the new 16 word signs.  They suggested that related park material and safety notices be placed on the mountain website and on trial maps.  Sizing and measuring various parts of elements was discussed both from the design concept and the Accident Investigation side.  This was followed up with an on hill presentation and workshop.


The new National Ski Patrol Executive Director was present.  He discussed some of the problems they are trying to deal with at the national level both from an IT standpoint and room change in personnel.

Lift Evacuation was discussed and different methods being used to lower guests.  The three discussed were the Body Belay, Figure 8, and the Petzl I’Ds.  Most agreed that the body belay was the least safe.


Some concern regarding volunteer’s vs paid.  The fact that patrollers do what they do for humanitarian reasons seems to be keeping the labor department away from the issue for us. The mountain host/ambassador program could have some problems if they are volunteers unless they are part of the National Ski Patrol Mountain Host program and have taken the CPR and First Aid course.  Some of their duties could then be considered humanitarian, as they could give aid on the hill.

To be on the safe side, volunteer compensation should at least equal minimum wage for the number of hours worked.

Safety PSA’s

January is “National Safety Awareness Month.” National Safety Week has now become National Safety Month!

Now the month of January will be dedicated to an entire month of safety.  Many Resorts across the country participate every year to educate skiers and snowboarders about being safe, and to use common sense on the slopes.  If you are looking for Public Service Announcements (PSA’s) to play in your lodge, below is a list to chose from and the embedding codes  can be found at the bottom of this article for plugging into your streaming play list.  Thank you to LidsOnKids.ORG and NSAA for producing  the PSA’s.

Heather McPhie

Emily Cook

Shaun White

“Moving Forward from Traumatic Brain Injury”

Copy and paste the embedding codes, or click the share icons in the upper right corner of each video to forward the clip onto a friend:

<iframe width="560" height="315" 
src="//www.youtube.com/embed/TjuWz0fw2Q0" frameborder="0" 

<iframe width="560" height="315" 
src="//www.youtube.com/embed/7B2iPnBHJj8" frameborder="0" 

<iframe width="560" height="315" 
src="//www.youtube.com/embed/bSwEK0wT-Jw" frameborder="0" 

<iframe src="//player.vimeo.com/video/36580662" width="560" 
height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Risk Management

Risk Management is something every ski patroller should be aware of and practice, but is all too often forgotten or put off until later — until after the accident investigation and paperwork are completed. We should be considering risk management as part of the immediate response to the accident.  Our job is not only to take care of the injured or ill guests; it is also to prevent injuries from happening.  Another very important part of our job is to protect the ski area from future liability as a result of an injury where a piece of man-made equipment is involved, is covered under the inherent risk of skiing statute.  For example, a guest collides with another guest on the hill, there is a death on the property, or other unusual circumstance that just does not feel right to you as a normal occurrence at a ski mountain must be managed.

Any of these unusual occurrences should trigger an accident investigation.  How your mountain deals with an accident investigation should be dictated by your insurance carrier.  They should have provided your ski area with an accident investigation kit containing the forms and procedures.

One important part of this kind of incident is early notification of mountain management so corrective action, if required, can be instituted before someone else is injured in the same manner.   This is one portion of accident investigation which is often overlooked or delayed until much later in the process.  Ski Patrol should actively manage this type of risk by preventing the same occurrence from happening again, or by proactively seeking out potential hazards and mitigating them before an accident can happen.

Recently I helped out with an OEC exam.  The scenario was a snowboarder who had used an area fence near the lodge as a rail.  He caught a broken portion of the fence and fell, causing several injuries.  The responding patrollers all did a great job of managing the injured guest, taking care of the injuries and getting him to First Aid.  What they did not identify was the broken fence that could be a hazard for other people doing the same thing.  Area management should have been notified so that the fence could have been repaired.  Not one person that day suggested this as an option.  While a snowboarder using a fence as a rail may seem to be so out of place that it could never happen again.  If it did happen once — then it could again.

I have found a couple of apps for my smart phone, that can assist with accident investigation.  The first app is Utilities on the I-Phone.  Under UTILITIES is a COMPASS. By swiping the compass to the side you get an inclinometer.  It can be aligned with the slope to give angle.  The next, and by far a better resource is THEODOLITE.  This one costs $3.99 but is a great one for on hill investigation.  Some of the highlights include, latitude and longitude, percent of slope, compass direction, altitude, and time.  The one thing it does not list is date. Date can be included in another mode that does not give you percentage of slope.  Nothing however is better than an old-fashioned tape measure and a set of distances to known, fixed objects such as lift towers and light poles to show exact location.

Everyone has a cell phone and a lot of people are carrying Go-Pro cameras or other recording devices.  You can often find someone who recorded the incident, and will be willing to come with you to first aid for you to download the image and add it to your accident investigation file.  Be sure to get all important information from the photographer for your records so they can be found again if the incident goes to court.

In conclusion, add a risk management elements to your partoller activities.  Incorporate modern tools to your accident investigation.  Look for help from witnesses, find creative ways to utilize the skiing public’s technology toys, such as GoPro videos.  Look for guidance on accident investigation from your ski area’s  insurance carrier.

NSAA Fall Forum 2011

Good safety information came out of the NSAA Fall Forum at Mt. Washington.  Most important is Documentation.  It could be years before a law suit gets to court.  You will be asked to produce such seemingly unimportant information as:

  1. The wording on the back of the injured person’s ski ticket
  2. Trail report for that day
  3. Weather conditions
  4. Who opened the trail that day and what was done to it up to the time of the incident
  5. Names of all witnesses and contact information such as a copy of their drivers license.
  6. Pictures of trail signs and loading and unloading signs for the lift or lifts the injured may have taken.
  7. Remember a person has two years after reaching their 18th birthday to bring suit.  Does your patrol keep records that go back 16 or more years?  (for an injured 4 year old)

This is just a short list, talk with your risk manager about other things your insurance company might suggest.  Remember if it isn’t written down and legible, it did not happen.