Our View: The wisdom of slope safety

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Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. doesn't deserve the criticism it has received for increased efforts to enforce safety rules.

At issue is the "SlopeWise" program that rolled out this fall. Under the program, Ski Corp. added safety personnel and broadened penalties for reckless skiers and snowboarders.

What's new is that skiers and snowboarders colliding with those downhill from them could have their passes suspended for 30 days. Repeat offenders could have their lift privileges revoked for the balance of the season.

The announcement drew a lot of angry comments from people who argued the penalties unfairly targeted local skiers. The rationale in most complaints is that because locals are more apt than tourists to hold season passes, they stand to lose more if their passes are suspended.

Some went so far as to argue that the company crafted the rules specifically to harass local skiers and snowboarders.

You could make the same sorts of arguments about any punitive rules designed to make people behave.

You could argue the point system Colorado uses to police drivers unfairly targets people with Colorado licenses. You could argue that fines unfairly target the poor or that life prison sentences unfairly target the young.

Ski Corp. spokesman Mike Lane said reckless skiers would be dealt with the same regardless of what kind of tickets were hanging from their necks.

He pointed out that destination skiers often have thousands of dollars invested in their four- or five-day vacations.

"That's a pretty big investment, too," Lane said.

The only real question is whether Ski Corp. should be trying to improve safety on the slopes. We think that's an obvious "yes."

The new enforcement effort didn't just appear from thin air. The company was attempting to respond to complaints from people who said they constantly were looking over their shoulders in fear of being run down by reckless skiers or boarders. Those people include aging baby boomers who no longer have the strength of youths, and couples with young children who want to ski as a family.

It's not unreasonable to expect people to abide by safety rules, nor is it unreasonable or unusual for those charged with enforcing the rules to wield some tools toward that end.

The real solution for any one worried about losing lift privileges is to be a safe, courteous skier or rider who knows his or her limits and slows down where slow is called for.

That was the truth even before SlopeWise, because the real risk here is not about losing a pass, it's about losing use of limb or perhaps even a life.

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