Saturday, February 20, 2010

uphill update

direct from pr at the big.  keep thinking

Hello all --

A couple of new things related to uphill traffic:

•For any of you that are on Facebook, I would recommend joining a new group that local photographer and skinner David Marx has created called "Protect the Right to Responsible Uphill Travel at Whitefish Mountain Resort". I think it is a good place to take this conversation public, talk to others you may not already know who participate in this pastime, and so on.

•For those of you I haven't talked to in the past couple of days, WMR representatives are meeting with the USFS on Monday to talk about things, and we'll be presenting a proposal for a policy to them. I'll be sending out an update after that happens.

•All of us up here are assuming that whatever sort of policy we land on with the USFS, it will need to be tweaked/reworked after a couple of months in action. So, please don't give up on taking your part in this conversation after the first version of this thing gets ratified.

•Just a clarification: If and when something is finalized, we'll be passing out flyers, taking out newspaper ads, and having conversations with individuals on the slopes for a while before actually putting anything into action, so we're hoping by the time any new rules go into effect, it won't be a surprise to anyone.

•For those of you who haven't already, check out Mt. Bachelor's policy - - as well as another mountain in Washington called Mission Ridge - They're the two I have found so far, and both are very similar to what we're proposing. Bachelor is lift-operation hours only, Mission Ridge starts 2 hours before lifts open and closes with sweep.

•To the two or three of you whom I started this conversation with before the first meeting between ski school, Chester Powell, Dan, grooming, marketing, and me, I want to apologize for being a little too confident in the way I understood the situation at that point. Two years ago, a similar but smaller meeting took place, and my take-away then was that an uphill policy was unrealistic because unless we expended resources to enforce it, we would be putting ourselves more at risk for liability than if we continued to simply "recommend against it". That was the advice from our lawyers at the time, and that is what I told a few of you before this process really got started. As it turns out, some recent serious close calls with winch cats and other groomers have pushed the issue over the tipping point, and now, having identified those particular dangers, the law doesn't really allow us to fail to act. I think most of us went in hoping to come out with some sort of educational strategy as a first step, but in fact we all came out agreeing that we could be potentially held responsible for injuries if we didn't do more than that. I'll provide more details on this sort of logic later.

Of particular interest to me personally in regards to the Washington resorts with uphill policies is a law that is mentioned on Mission Ridge's uphill policy page, RCW 4.24.210. That law states that:

any ... in lawful possession and control of any lands ... who allow members of the public to use them for the purposes of outdoor recreation ... without charging a fee of any kind therefor, shall not be liable for unintentional injuries to such users.

Full text here:

Montana does not have a similar law on the books that I can find, and so I would like to start a movement to have something like this passed. A law like this would make uphill traffic and other activities outside of the hours that ski patrol is available a much less frightening proposition for us, as far as personal injury law goes. It's a little fuzzy, since we do charge for downhill skiing, but it would help. It would also make it a lot easier for companies like F.H. Stolze Land & Lumber to continue providing recreational access to the public on their land, which I know they constantly struggle with in the same way we're struggling with uphill traffic: They want to do it, but the first fatality that happens has the potential to put them out of business, and that's scary.

So, thanks to everyone who has chimed in so far and thank you to everyone who has been patient with me in regards to getting back to you.

More on Monday,


1 comment:

  1. There's already a statute protecting private land owners. Montana has a recreational use statute. 70-16-302, MCA.