Michigan based Boyne Resorts, who operate nine resorts across the U.S. and Canada, now require all employees working on the mountain to wear a safety helmet.
The new policy follows the death, in March, of Alexander Witt, who wasn’t wearing a helmet whilst working on a steep trail at Sugarloaf, ME. The resort was fined $11,400 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Witt was skiing to pick up a coworker’s ski that had gotten away from him after a fall and as he transitioned from one snow type to another, lost his balance and fell, suffering blunt force trauma to his head.
This new policy will not only apply to ski and snowboard instructors who routinely wear helmets but all other workers who get around the mountain on skis or snowboards. Bicycle helmets will also be required for employees while on duty. Company spokeswoman Julie Ard says previously policies varied from one mountain to the next, but are now the same across the company:
“We have implemented a helmet policy. It is a requirement now that all of our team members at all locations in the U.S. and Canada are wearing approved helmets when on snow or actually on a bicycle as well.”
Boyne Resorts, who also operate Big Sky, MT and Brighton, UT, have roughly 8,500 employees. Of these, an estimated 3,000 have jobs on snow, which could mean working on skis or a snowboard for all or part of an employee’s role, Ard added.
Ski helmet usage has increased every season for 15 years, from just 25 percent of all skiers in 2002 to 83 percent this past season, according to the National Ski Areas Association.
Despite the tragedy that brought about this change in policy, Boyne deserves credit for leading the industry in creating a safe environment for its employees. Helmet use for on-snow employees is simple, effective and makes sense. Hopefully, Boyne’s move will lead to wider industry adoption.