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State Provides Tips for Safe Snow Sports at Ski Areas; Michigan is Progressive in Ski Area Safety
December 19, 2003 - Michigan is beginning to live up to its name, "Winter Wonderland," so Department of Labor & Economic Growth Director David C. Hollister offers some tips on keeping safe on the slopes this ski season.
"With 49 ski areas, Michigan has the second most ski areas in the U.S. which reflects just how popular our state is with the nation's skiers, boarders and tubers," Hollister said. "With the Michigan Snowsports Industry Association estimating that 2.3 million skiers hit Michigan slopes last year alone, it's no wonder we make ski safety a priority in this state and set out goals higher than recommended national standards."
The Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth and its predecessors have worked with Michigan ski areas to promote safe snow sports since 1962… far longer than most states. A 7-member Ski Area Safety Board is appointed from the industry and public alike, and a team of professionals is maintained to issue permits to operate, and assure safe operation by inspecting ski areas and ski lifts.
There are 308 active ski lifts inspected annually to state and national standards, both before and during operation. Michigan requires earlier and more frequent load testing than the national standard (lifts are loaded to simulate passengers, then their main and emergency drive systems, brakes and anti-rollback mechanisms are "dynamically tested"). Only since 2000 has the national standard required load testing of ski lifts. They are required every seven (7) years; however, the State of Michigan and its ski areas have been doing this together every five (5) years since 1978.
Michigan law requires that mechanical failures and accidents involving ski lifts be reported - many of which are caused by horseplay and irresponsible behavior on the slopes.
Hollister said, "There were three mechanical failures reported in the 2002-2003 season with the intentional swinging of a chairlift chair by its occupants causing the worst of these failures. Luckily no one was injured as a result of these incidents."
Hollister recommended that skiers should be particularly careful getting on or off chairlifts, which accounted for most of the 21 ski lift related injuries reported last season. The next most frequent injuries were caused by horseplay on tube tows
"Since most accidents are the result of rider error rather than mechanical failure it's important for people to follow simple common sense safety requirements to protect themselves and the safety of those around them," Hollister added.
Common sense safety requirements are spelled out in signs on and around ski lifts and in the Skier/Snowboarder Responsibility Code. These include: "Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely." If you don't, or are uncertain, watch people getting on the lift and ask questions of the lift attendants, operators or other area personnel.
Other safety recommendations from the Responsibility Code include:
· Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.
· People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.
· You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above.
· Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others.
· Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
· Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.
For more information on Michigan ski area safety regulation, laws, rules and board, click hereor call (517) 241-9202.
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