Resort company mandates helmets for employees | SierraSun.com

Resort company mandates helmets for employees

Luke Beasley
Sierra Sun

Ryan Slabaugh/Sierra SunWhile helmets have become more popular among skiers and snowboarders, resort companies had never mandated their use by employees until this week, when Vail Resorts announced it would.

LAKE TAHOE “-Vail Resorts, Inc., owner of Tahoe’s Heavenly ski resort as well as several major resorts in Colorado, announced this week that it will require all employees who work on the mountain ” from ski instructors to rescue workers ” to wear helmets during the 2009-10 winter season.

The company’s Mountain Division co-president, John Garnsey, said in a press release that helmets would be provided to mountain employees as part of their uniform. The company also announced that it will require any children ages 12 and under to wear a helmet if they participate in the resorts’ skiing or snowboarding schools. Further, any rental packages for those children will have to include a helmet.

“… we believe the time has come for us to take our commitment to safety to the next level,” Garnsey said. “Our employees will set the example next year for all who enjoy skiing and riding our slopes.”

Heavenly public relations coordinator Aimi Xistra-Rich said the decision will affect roughly 6,400 Vail employees. She said there has been little reaction to the decision so far, adding the response has been generally positive.

“When you go out on the mountain, a lot of people are wearing them already,” Xistra-Rich said. “I can’t speak on behalf of Vail, but my personal opinion is that skiing and snowboarding can be dangerous at times ” and we all know that ” so this sounds like a good move.”

But Vail is largely alone in requiring its employees to wear protective helmets, though the decision to require helmets for children in ski schools is not new.

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Sugar Bowl’s director of marketing and sales John Monson said that his company has discussed the helmet issue at length, but is not planning to mandate anything.

“We’re exploring something with Giro (helmet manufacturers), where we could offer our employees helmets at (wholesale) cost,” Monson said. “We’re not thinking about mandating it, but just making it affordable for the employees who do want to get one.”

Monson said that Sugar Bowl encourages skiers and riders to wear helmets, but warned that a helmet is not a license for recklessness.

“We encourage them, no question” Monson said. “But it’s not something that makes you safe across the board. We stick to the old adage: Wear a helmet, but ski like you don’t have one on ” and you’ll generally be safe.”

Rachel Woods, spokesperson for Alpine Meadows and Homewood ski resorts, said her company has not discussed requiring employees to wear helmets.

“It’s not something that’s been on the forefront for us,” Woods said.

But Woods said that her resorts embrace the idea that employees set an example that guests will pay attention to.

“Employees can convey an important message to any guest with their own conduct,” Woods said. “Whether it’s helmet use, skiing or snowboarding withing their ability level, maintaining an appropriate speed or just general mountain etiquette.”

Similarly, Diamond Peak spokesperson Kayla Anderson said her resort is not planning on any new helmet regulations, though they always encourage their use.