This winter we have received a few emails from locals who have encountered issues with Vail Resorts suspending passes due to various infractions. Locals’ issues seem to center on:
- Children who have had their passes suspended
- Limited ability to appeal suspended passes
- Are different rules applied at Canyons versus PCMR
- A lack of understanding of how suspension timeframes are determined
- A question of whether Park City (local) teenagers are being targeted by Vail due to apparel such as Park City Ski Team jackets
We reached out to Vail’s Mountain Community Affairs representative, Kristin Williams, with these concerns. We have always found her, and Park City COO Bill Rock, to be reasonable people who generally want a good experience for visitors. Below is her response:
First, many thanks for seeking us out on the topic of Safety – we place the highest value on the safety of our guests and employees, and any time we can clarify and/or inform, we’re more than happy to do so. Skiing and snowboarding are meant to be fun experiences for every guest and for all ages. At the same time, our guests have a responsibility to ski and ride safely and we have a responsibility to help educate and promote safety at our mountains. We’re all in this together.
For years, Vail Resorts has led the industry with innovative safety programs and initiatives designed to help guests and employees understand their responsibility while skiing and riding at our resorts. One of Vail Resorts’ proactive approaches to skier safety awareness and education is the Mountain Safety program, which started with the 1999-2000 season at Vail Mountain. The program expanded to all Vail Resorts mountains, including Park City Mountain, and is aimed at having a dedicated staff whose primary focus is enforcing the rules of skiing and snowboarding on the mountain. So, while patrol may be called away to transport injured guests down the mountain, Mountain Safety staff are still be able to focus on skier and snowboarder safety. A number of different tactics may be utilized, such as monitored runs on which a team of Mountain Safety employees stagger themselves throughout a given trail for a designated period of time, providing guests of all abilities and ages the comfort of extra eyes on the slopes, typically in high-traffic areas at busier times during the day – again, very much what you see on the mountain at Park City. Mountain Safety employees are empowered to stop guests and utilize safety violation cards both for enforcement of and education on the National Ski Areas Association’s “Your Responsibility Code.” Guests who are found to be in violation of the code may have their pass revoked for a period of time and are required to participate in a Safety Violator Class in order to have their pass reactivated.
You notice I am referencing “guest(s)” numerous times – whether you are a local or visiting from outside city limits, and no matter your age, you are considered our guest. When Mountain Safety stops a skier or snowboarder, we have no idea whether they are a local resident or a destination guest. Our safety rules apply to all guests and employees.
To date this season, we have pulled 102 passes and in fact, of those, only a small percentage were Park City youth. The amount of suspension time ranges from one day to as long as the remainder of the season, depending on the infraction. Speeding is the most common infraction across the board.
Any guest who states they have questions, comments, concerns or would like to appeal are given the MSP office number (435-658-5555) to speak with a supervisor or manager.
I mentioned the Responsibility Code above which is a long established standard within our industry. It is a universal set of standard applied at resorts across North America. The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) Code is used in classrooms, employee training, orientations, Slope Safety meetings and the community.
NSAA Seven Points to Your Responsibility Code
1. Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.
2. People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.
3. You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above.
4. Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others.
5. Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
6. Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.
7. Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.
Examples representative of violations include:
* Consistency of what is deemed an infraction
We look for following behaviors (NOT A COMPLETE LIST BUT MOST OF THEM):
Skiing / Riding out of control
Skiing / Riding above ability
Jumping in slow zones
Jumping in a no jumping zone
Jumping from wooded areas
Jibbing on signs (any made-made object not in a terrain park)
Ducking any rope.
Failure to abide by on mountain signage
Failure to stop or yield to employee command
Failure to present pass upon request
Any damage to man-made property
Cutting / skipping lift lines
Assault / threats of harm / Battery / theft
Knocking down signs / bamboo
Jumping ropes / signs
Swinging lift chairs
Bouncing on lift chair
Hitting lift tower with ski equipment
Throwing items from lift chair
Drinking alcohol in non-licensed areas
Bringing alcohol onto property
Any use of illegal drugs on property
Skiing / Riding intoxicated
Inappropriate riding of a lift
We also asked a few specific questions. Below are our questions and the replies from Ms. Williams:
Q: Park Rag – We’d like to better understand the process for a Vail employee to conclude there was an infraction
A: Ms. Williams (Vail) – We determine whether or not an infraction has taken place a few different ways: Visual confirmation of event; employee or guest complaint of an observed event; through investigation of the event.
Q: Park Rag – What is the appeal process. Is there fair process for contesting an infraction?
A: Ms. Williams – The appeal process is explained to everyone whose pass is pulled and is overseen by Mountain Safety Patrol Administration, through the supervisors and manager. The process includes a written request for a review and scheduled meeting.
Q: Park Rag -Is there a public policy in place that could educate the community on what causes an infraction, types of infractions, etc.?
A: Ms. Williams – We hold classes each week in the Legacy Lodge. Reviewing the National Ski Area Association “The Responsibility Code” that I outlined above. Reviewing Park City Municipal Code Title 8-2-8 and Summit County Code 5-2-3. We also educate by way of the Park City Season pass agreement and Guest ID badge Vail’s rules and regulations.
Q: Park Rag -How is length of pass suspension determined and by whom?
A: Ms. Williams – Depends upon the type of infraction and number of infractions:
From one (1) day thru the entire season and possible “no trespass” mandate from the property for severe infractions
Typically 28 days and 14 days.
Out Best Practice Groups, Risk Management and Health and Safety together determine consequences based on experience and modified behavior outcomes.
Q: Park Rag – If a person has an issue during the process at Park City, who can they escalate issues to at Vail?
A: Ms. Williams – At Park City Mountain a person may contact:
• Mountain Safety Patrol Administration
• Director of Ski Patrol
• Director of Mountain Operations