Safety initiatives often fly under the radar, less razzle-dazzle than guest relations or marketing campaigns, yet equally important to the industry in retention, conversion and overall growth. Ski areas across the nation compete in six categories and the risk and safety departments aim to be just as inventive and interactive as their retail branding counterparts. The safety awards highlight the creative, innovative, and tried-and-true methods that keep guests and employees safe on the mountain.
Thank you to our 2021 Safety Awards Sponsor, Safehold Special Risk.
Past Safety Award Winners
Congratulations to the 2021 Safety Award Winners and Finalists
Best Overall Safety Program (500K+ Skier Visits)
- Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, California
Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows, California
- For their massive effort to ensure a COVID-safe environment for their guests and employees, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area has been named a finalist for Best Overall Safety Program.
- For their team building approach to safety and commitment to mitigating common challenges and risks, Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows has been named a finalist for Best Overall Safety Program.
- Winner: Sun Valley Resort, Idaho
- How does a former winner of Best Overall Safety Program get recognized again? By continually pushing to be better – reducing their injury rate to its lowest yet, reaching skiers and non-skiers alike, and establishing one of the most comprehensive and polished safety messaging campaigns in the industry. Sun Valley Resort’s three primary safety initiatives – Know the Zone, #PartnerUp and Mountain Safety is Our Business – used video, on-site messaging and old fashioned guest interaction to achieve their safety goals. Having buy-in from Ski Patrol representatives simultaneously lent a voice of authority and passion for skiing to these messages. And by involving local businesses, Sun Valley Resort fostered key partnerships, and broadened the reach of mountain safety messaging to the local community and its visitors.
Best Overall Safety Program (Under 500K Skier Visits)
- Alpine Valley Ski Area, Ohio | Boston Mills/Brandywine Ski Resort, Ohio
- For adopting new and improved safety practices into resort culture, and empowering their employees with a safety-first mindset, Alpine Valley Ski Area and Boston Mills/Brandywine Ski Resort have been named finalists for Best Overall Safety Program.
- Blue Mountain Resort, Pennsylvania
- For their comprehensive and effective programs promoting guest education and interaction, Blue Mountain Resort has been named a finalist for Best Overall Safety Program.
- Winner: Wintergreen Resort, Virginia
- The volunteer ski patrol at Wintergreen Resort rolled out the #WintergreenSafe program, combining standard mountain safety practices with pandemic-related mitigation measures. The ski area was able to engage more people in the program by creating interactive campaigns and empowering their youth ski patrol participants to develop and deliver these messages to their peers. As a resort with a large share of beginners, the patrollers led by example – wearing helmets, practicing COVID-safe protocols, handing out safety swag and encouraging new skiers and riders out on the hill. This commitment not only led to positive guest interactions on the hill, but to hundreds of thousands of impressions across the ski area’s social media channels.
Best Employee Safety Program
- Killington Resort & Pico Mountain, Vermont
- For prioritizing and incentivizing complete employee wellness – and doing so in line with their signature branding and vibe – Killington/Pico and the King of Spring have been named a finalist for Best Employee Safety Program
- Winner: Mt. Hood Meadows, Oregon
Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
- When spring 2020 presented an uncertain future for ski areas, Mt. Hood Meadows leaped into action, creating a Coronavirus Readiness Task Force to create clearly-defined goals and science-based best practices to prepare their workforce for the unprecedented season ahead. The outcome was Project CROP – Coronavirus Readiness Operational Plan – endorsed from the top down. The ski area trained its task force via the Johns Hopkins Contact Tracing course, partnered with local medical professionals to provide employees access to diagnostic testing, and prioritized employee health over the mandate to return to work. This preparation and training resulted in zero traceable workplace transmissions of the coronavirus.
- For their comprehensive and effective use of pandemic best practices and continued community support, Taos Ski Valley has been named a finalist for Best Employee Safety Program.
Best Guest Safety Program
- Winner: Big SNOW American Dream, New Jersey
Copper Mountain Resort, Colorado
- Big SNOW didn’t just accept a close call and slide away – they critically reviewed every incident and near miss to identify and mitigate safety challenges of their guests, many of whom are first-timers. The biggest challenge? New skiers and riders getting in over their heads, especially those who had never seen a ski lift. The ski area implemented a multi-channel campaign, reaching the guest before they even stepped foot on snow, and continuing to do so at various touchpoints through the entry process. QR codes on on-site signage led guests to how-to videos, presented in an unintimidating way. SNOW Ambassadors, aka instructors, lap the hill to identify and help struggling guests, and provide them with free Terrain Based Learning instruction. This multi-channel, friendly and well-branded approach to guest safety led to double-digit decreases in incidents requiring medical attention, and cultivated a culture of safety among the entire Big SNOW team.
- For improving both the safety and experience of a growing non-traditional guest segment, Copper Mountain Resort has been named a finalist for Best Guest Safety Program.
- Snowbasin Resort, Utah
- For their effective and unwavering focus on safety as part of the overall guest experience, Snowbasin Resort has been named a finalist for Best Guest Safety Program.
- Winner: Rich Bailey, Risk Manager and Ski Patrol Director, China Peak, California
Anna Laxague, Risk Manager, Mt. Hood Meadows, Oregon
- China Peak risk manager and ski patrol director Rich Bailey has been a champion for mountain safety back to his collegiate senior project, titled “Skier Safety Awareness.” His 45-year tenure in the industry has led to significantly reduced hazard exposure for the ski area, its guests and its employees. It also extends to the local community – Rich has been a leader in education and outreach for decades, partnering with the Forest Service to teach mountain safety to school-age children; heading the Association of Professional Patrollers and training our mountain first responders; and leading by example, showing up every day, hours early, to ensure the mountain and its people are ready to give guests a safe experience. This has resulted in the ski area having minimal guest or employee injuries. In the words of general manager Tim Cohee: “Few people are as qualified in the state’s ski industry.” It’s the sharing of his knowledge and experience for the greater good that makes Rich Bailey a champion for safety.
- For working undaunted to bring together the Mt. Hood Meadows family and improve workplace safety and overall employee health, Anna Laxague has been named a finalist for Safety Champion.
- Michael Barber, Ski Patrol Director, Wintergreen Resort, Virginia
- For his tireless support of his staff, the resort staff and his community by creating innovative programming to build a culture of safety, Michael Barber has been named a finalist for Safety Champion.