Food for thought if you bring it to Mt Bachelor this spring.
Bachelor does not want to be like Vail Resorts, so please stay chill and don't ride like jerks or the hand may be forced.
"Last month when my pass holder letter was due, we experienced another
tragic tree well fatality. My thoughts and those of our mountain
community remain with the family and friends of the skier who was
enjoying the freedom and exhilaration of our sport in those prime snow
conditions. We also remember the family and friends of Nicole and Alfie
who lost their lives under similar circumstances last year.
I have contemplated many different versions of this letter
over the last month and whether or not to address these tragic losses in
this context, but we are a community and remembering these events and
those affected by them is part of it, and frankly this is something that
has occupied a large part of my mind over the last few weeks.
The obvious question is whether there is any way to reduce
the risks associated with our sport? I can say that the safety of our
staff and of our guests is a subject in every meeting at every level of
our organization, every day. Safety consciousness once again registered
as the highest scoring attribute in our recent employee survey. I am
very grateful for this and for the continuous efforts of our team to
drive home the safety message in every aspect of our organization.
However, this is a job that we know will never be “done”. Things are
constantly changing, we are constantly learning and there is always more
that we can do to improve safety around the mountain.
Unfortunately, as many resorts in the Pacific Northwest
know, completely eliminating the risks associated with tree wells is
impossible short of closing large areas of our mountains whenever those
risks are present. This would also eliminate the opportunity for the
kind of skiing and riding that has become the gold standard of our sport
today, which is deep powder riding in natural terrain.
However, safety is a much broader issue than snow immersion.
With increased numbers on our slopes this season I have heard more from
guests and staff than I can remember about general safety around our
mountain. There are many themes I have heard which are cause for
concern, and which have resulted in very real and unhappy consequences
for people trying to enjoy the mountain together.
The most common theme of course, is people skiing or riding
too fast - whether in control or not - in congested areas. Especially
where there is a mix of abilities, age and size of guests. You may have
seen the “She was 5 and you were doing 50” signs at the bottom of our
lifts this year. It does not matter if you feel in control, but if
something unexpected happens and a collision results, the faster you are
going the more damage you will do to yourself, and to others. It’s that
simple. The chances of something unexpected occurring increase
exponentially in areas where there are higher concentrations of other
skiers and riders, such as the getbacks, crossovers, intersections,
popular runs, terrain parks and near the bottom of lifts.
In addition to speed, I have head comments and seen many
examples of skiers and snowboarders not allowing enough space as they
navigate past or “thread” through other guests on the mountain. Leaving
more space gives you (and the other person) more options and an
increased safety margin. Again, it doesn’t matter if you think you are
in control, to the other person you probably appear to be too fast, too
close and a threat to their safety. Please don’t allow your actions to
be the reason that another person is afraid of being at the mountain;
everyone has a right to enjoy our mountain together. When there is
plenty of space, use it. When there is not enough space, slow down.
As I can attest from personal experience, the most dangerous
places on our mountain can be the getbacks. These are a blessing and a
curse of our particular mountain. Compared to many resorts, our getbacks
make it very easy to navigate from one side of our mountain to the
other, opening up large areas of riding. But they are also places of
high congestion, cross traffic and a diverse mix of abilities. The
getbacks are there for “getting back”, not for speed runs, or racing
each other, or for jibbing on and off the sides. These areas, along with
our green runs and the base areas, are places to navigate with caution
and awareness of others. Our runs, parks and wide-open natural terrain
are the proper places to enjoy your higher level speed and creative
I can’t talk about mountain safety without also addressing
the issue of impairment. Skiing and snowboarding are high energy and
high skill sports and are performed and enjoyed best with clarity of
focus and complete physical acuity.
Alcohol and other mind-altering substances impact both our
judgement and physical performance and as a result make us less safe to
ourselves and those around us. Enjoying an adult beverage or two has
been part of this sport forever and clearly we embrace that aspect of
mountain culture through our many food and beverage outlets across the
resort and during events. Those who know me also know that I enjoy a
good beer (or Bloody Mary) on a ski day with my friends.
However, impairment occurs on a spectrum, and there is a
point for every person where it crosses from enhancing our personality
to endangering ourselves and others. I encourage everyone to be mindful
of that point, and of the fact that outside of our licensed facilities
it is not legal to be drinking in public. This includes lift lines, lift
chairs, or anywhere out on the hill. Please do not be surprised if you
are reminded of this fact by a Mt. Bachelor employee.
This responsibility clearly extends to your drive down the
mountain at the end of the day. Please obey the law in this respect and
do not drive under the influence. If requested, we will always allow you
to park your car overnight in our lot rather than have you drive it
away in an impaired condition. If you are unable to notify a Mt.
Bachelor employee, just call our info line at 541-382-1709 and let us
know and we will not tow or boot your vehicle and allow you a chance to
recover it in sober fashion.
These are all things addressed by the Skier’s Responsibility
Code. If you don’t know this code, there are signs on many of our lift
towers and around the resort, it is on our trail map and it was
referenced in your season pass agreement. In a nutshell it tells you to
take responsibility for your actions, have good equipment, understand
your abilities, follow resort directions, and be aware of your
surroundings, including those around you. If you want to read it now,
you can see it here.
I have heard comments as to why our staff are not everywhere
controlling the speed and behavior of those who clearly are not
respecting the Skier’s Responsibility Code. The answer to this is
partly obvious and, I think, partly cultural. The mountain is too big
and there are too many things happening at any one time for our
patrollers or other on-mountain staff to be everywhere or see every
incident that may require correction. Also, our mountain ambassadors and
the National Ski Patrol staff are there voluntarily to provide
assistance, and not necessarily to be mountain police. Having said that,
we do stop and have conversations with those we see behaving in an
unsafe or overly aggressive manner. We will and we have pulled passes
for more grievous offenses, or when there appears to be no understanding
or remorse. It is probably true however, that we are not as militant as
some resorts may be in this respect. I think this is largely a cultural
thing at Mt. Bachelor and perhaps even around the Pacific Northwest,
where we embrace freedom and personal responsibility a little more than
in some parts of the country where resorts might be more focused on
tourism than community.
As our numbers increase on the mountain, and in light of our
experience this season, we will be looking at both our staffing and our
approach to monitoring and controlling skier and snowboarder behavior
on the mountain as we look toward next season. I am also hoping this
appeal will result in broader awareness and a community based effort to
improve the safety of our mountain so that we will not have to become
more overly militant in our approach to managing skier and rider
In the meantime, I want to thank the entire Mt. Bachelor
team, from marketing, tickets, retail and rental staff, mountain
ambassadors and lift operators, who are talking about safety every day. I
especially want to thank our patrol team and the National Ski Patrol
volunteers who are out there prepping the mountain every day and
assisting guests when things go awry. I also want to thank the entire
mountain community for all the chairlift conversations about mountain
safety, for keeping us and each other honest, for offering to ride with a
stranger, for keeping eyes on one another and helping each other out.
The reality is we are all in this together. Safety is a participation
thing, not something that should be delegated entirely to others. There
are still a couple of months of spring riding to go this season, so
please keep all of this in mind as we finish out the 2018-19 winter