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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.

Past Safety Award Winners      2022 Safety Impact Award


Congratulations to the 2022 Safety Award Finalists

Thanks to all who joined us at the 2022 NSAA Awards Ceremony during our National Convention in Nashville, TN, May 14.

Best Overall Safety Program

  • Winner: Gore Mountain, NY
    • Gore Mountain won the overall safety program award because they truly went all-in on messaging and activations across the resort. Gore’s team identified three areas of focus: snowboarder blind spot awareness, Your Responsibility Code and Know the Zone. They put their own twist on each one, engaging guests and employees through creative activations, visual signage across the resort, and on videos across the ORDA family of ski areas. Looking forward, Gore can further elevate this program through tracking metrics across it and its sister ski areas and continue to cultivate the culture of safety among its people.
  • Taos Ski Valley, NM
    • When Taos focuses on an initiative, they take a whole community approach. This season, the ski area committed to lift safety, specifically for their littlest guests. They started with their internal culture, putting 300 employees through lift safety training and having employees lead by example by putting the bar down when they ride. Then, they moved on to the parents, educating them through email communications and offering Kinderlift vests (which, if you’ve ever skied with a small child, are glorious instruments). Next up were the visuals: bullseyes on seats, eye-catching signage in the loading areas and a practice chair in the base area. All of these actions impressed responsible lift riding upon kids before they even slid down the slopes, and it led to zero incidents involving kids and lifts this season.
  • Whitefish Mountain Resort, MT
    • In order to improve your safety program and boost a safety culture, you have to understand your baseline. Leadership walks at Whitefish Mountain Resort identified existing and potential issues, leading to clear tasks and expectations when it came to improving physical safety in their facilities. The ski area committed both financial and leadership resources to this effort, which led to improved guest and employee safety. When performed year over year, it can become second nature to employees to observe and correct issues in all facilities, across departments.

Best Guest Safety Program

  • Winner: Eldora Mountain Resort, CO
    • When developing their guest safety programming, Eldora didn’t just identify a problem to be solved, they set a goal to affect a culture shift and ingrain safety into all aspects of the guest experience. This can be not just operationally difficult, but emotionally difficult as well. Rather than shut down in the face of adversity, they stepped up. In order to change guest behavior, safety messaging had to be emphasized daily and reach a wide number of people. The ski area increased the size of their Mountain Safety staff and moved their safety class online where it could be proactively taken by anyone, not just reactively taken by offenders. In fact, 77% of those who completed the course were not offenders, but general public looking to improve their on-hill safety knowledge. Messaging helped guests understand the risk factors and behaviors within their control and was delivered through a combination of on-site and external communication and outreach. Their hard work yielded results — in this case, an incident rate reduced by 12.24% since 2019–20. More importantly, Eldora created a program that can be replicated by other ski areas — and become even more influential — season after season.
  • Copper Mountain Resort, CO
    • Copper Mountain Resort took a whole resort approach to its Safety Fest program, combining skier safety, personal health and wellness, and positive reinforcement to get its safety messages to its guests. They also set clear goals: reduce incidents and increase guest engagement. The immediate result was a 5% reduction in incidents requiring ski patrol in the three weeks following the Safety Fest activation. The ski area achieved the second goal by sponsoring a guest safety video contest and investing more than $17,000 in giveaways to reward the behaviors they wished to see. Copper also stayed true to its community-focused Play Forever initiative by inviting local Summit County nonprofit Building Hope to participate and share mental health resources.
  • Killington Mountain Resort, VT
    • Over the past decade, ski areas have embraced uphill travel — and that boomed even more in the pandemic. Despite the fact that our ski areas have perfectly good lifts, people still love walking up the slopes. The team at Killington proactively instituted an uphill travel initiative, fostering a “culture of knowledge.” This proved effective — even with a 37% increase in uphill travel passes, they still reported no accidents or injuries. This is right in line with Killington’s consistent emphasis on collision safety, a thread that runs through their terrain park program, too. What’s so special about Killington is that they aren’t complacent; even with no increase in collision-related incidents, they still actively work to educate and influence the behaviors of all their guests, whether traveling downhill or uphill.

Best Employee Safety Program

  • Winner: Breckenridge, CO     
    • Breckenridge’s “Focus on Today” program is what we mean when we talk about building a culture of safety at a ski area. Through this program, employees are empowered to identify and report high-risk actions or situations. Departments were encouraged to share their daily area of focus via mountain-wide communications. Yes, daily — because safety doesn’t take a day off. The result of this tenacious effort? Over 35% reduction in employee injuries over the past two years and a staff that understands its role as part of a culture of overall resort safety.

Safety Champion

  • Winner: Kaitlyn Schwalbe, Guest Service Manager, Snowbasin Resort, UT
    • We love when someone goes above and beyond the standard scope of their job; it just proves that safety is everyone’s responsibility. It makes sense that a ski resort with a demonstrably strong record in risk management empowers its employees to make it their own. Kaitlyn Schwalbe managed several programs this past season, including the SAFERmtn Basecamp, to positive and measurable results. She formed the resort’s safety committee, bringing together multiple departments and fostering an environment of culture and respect. According to her co-workers, Schwalbe is the ”go-to person with an eye for safety in all areas,” and dedicated to making the Snowbasin community the best it can be.
  • Bob Piede, Safety Office Manager, Holiday Valley, NY
    • When you’re working in risk management, or in resort ops in general, it can be difficult to look beyond the immediate issue or risk. But according to others at the ski area, that’s just what Bob Piede is able to do. We know that safety culture starts from within. Piede consistently developed new ways to reach Holiday Valley’s staff, allowing their voices to be heard through a suggestion program and committing to their health and wellness.
  • Mark Roberts, Health and Safety Supervisor, Gore Mountain, NY
    • Mark Roberts’ influence was critical in Gore Mountain winning the overall safety award. One of his greatest strengths is identifying root causes of common issues, sharing these issues with the team and then implementing programs to address the cause. His combined safety and education initiatives have reduced guest and employee injuries and created that ever-important culture of safety. One of his key strengths is communication — he established regular trainings and pathways for communication and did so in a supportive and positive way. He’s also gone beyond Gore and helped ORDA implement congruent programs across its mountains.

Thank you to our 2022 Safety Awards Sponsor, Safehold Special Risk.     

2022 Safety Impact Award

This new award, first given in 2021, recognizes the extraordinary effect an individual or program had on its intended audience or target and represents ingenuity, dedication and lasting impact. NSAA was proud to honor ski industry pioneer Mary Bozack of MountainGuard Insurance Program. Read about Mary's contributions in her full profile from the 2021 Convention issue of the NSAA Journal.