Our Story

Dr Gregorie initiated meetings with the leaders of the California Ski Industry Association (CSIA) and individual resorts. He assured them that he understood the importance of legal liability protections to the financial viability of their businesses and that he had no intention of challenging those protections. However, in these meetings it was made very clear to Dr. Gregorie that the association and resorts had no intention of making the safety information he was requesting available to their patrons and that they did not want patrons to be able to consider comparative safety in their choice of resorts. He told them that he felt strongly that the combination of the resorts’ legal liability protections and their active withholding of critical safety information known only to them constitute an imbalance in public policy (what is enforced and permitted by law) which compromises their patrons’ ability to provide fully informed consent to the degree of personal injury risk at any resort as well as to chose between resorts based on comparative risk. Dr. Gregorie also told the resorts that this imbalance in public policy also insulated the resorts from any incentive for safety improvement.

In late 2008 Dr. Gregorie filed a lawsuit in Federal court intended to: (1) challenge the public policy imbalance in California by invalidating the liability waiver his daughter signed based on inadequate informed consent; and (2) establish a resort duty of care to warn and reasonably protect patrons from hazards known to the resort. Unfortunately, in the absence of any applicable Federal law, the courts ruled that they had to enforce the existing precedence in California law and would not allow his case to go to trial.

In 2009, while his legal case was working its way through the courts, Dr. Gregorie established two nonprofit California Corporations, the California Ski and Snowboard Safety Organization (CSSSO) and the Snowsport Safety Foundation (SSF).

The Snowsport Safety Foundation initiated research to document an accurate estimate of the annual number of significant snow sport injuries at California resorts and to do a preliminary assessment of safety policies, procedures and practices actually in place at those resorts. Using an injury database maintained by the California Department of Health, the research uncovered a 5-year annual average (2007-2011) of more than 11,500 emergency room and 630 hospital admissions. The Foundation also engaged an international court certified snow sport safety expert, Richard Penniman, with over 30 years experience as a ski patroller and mountain resort operations manager as well as investigator of hundreds of accidents, to design and implement an on-mountain limited “snapshot” survey of the use of established accident prevention and injury reduction practices and procedures at California resorts. He used 17 different safety practices documented in a peer-reviewed series of three articles published by the International Society of Ski Safety (ISSS) and the leading international standards organization (ASTM). That survey (see The California Mountain Resort Safety Report) documented significant inadequacy, variability and inconsistency in the implementation of these practices and procedures between and within 25 California resorts.

CSSSO was established to sponsor “ski resort safety transparency” legislation in California. That legislation would require ski resorts to have and disclose safety plans (with no specified content) as well as injury and fatality statistics. A highly respected consumer advocate and California Assemblyman, Dave Jones (current CA state insurance Commissioner and Candidate for Attorney General) agreed to author a bill in 2010. That year, due to budgetary constraints, the bill never got out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee. However, in 2011, it was passed, with some concessions to the ski industry lobby, by both the Assembly and the Senate and went to the Governor’s desk. The industry then successfully lobbied Governor Schwarzenegger to veto it. After the 2012 election of Governor Brown, the bill again successfully passed the California Legislature and again the industry successfully lobbied the Governor to veto it.

In 2013, CSSSO published the first Ski Area Family Safety Report Card of its kind anywhere in the world using the survey data from the California Mountain Resort Safety Report. However, with no legislative mandate to pursue in the foreseeable future, CSSSO’s Board of Directors decided to place the organization in an inactive status. The Snowsport Safety Foundation (SSF) took up its current independent direction as the “Consumer Reports” of snow sport safety. Dr. Gregorie expanded and diversified the SSF Board with additional highly qualified trustees and appointed Mr. Penniman as its Chief Science Officer.

In 2016, SSF initiated a repeat on-mountain survey of 19 California resorts and in 2017 completed surveying of nine additional resorts in California and Nevada. The California Mountain Resort Safety Survey 2016-2017 is available on the Foundation’s Website. The Report data was used to publish the 2017 California Ski Area Family Safety Report Card as a user-friendly aid to skiers and snowboarders in considering safety in their choice of resorts for themselves and their families.

The Foundation is now planning expansion of its resort safety assessments and report cards to other states. Safety in outdoor sports and recreation is becoming an increasing public concern and priority. As happened in the 20th century auto industry, as safety information becomes available to their customers, the most progressive resorts will recognize a competitive advantage in documenting and promoting safety performance. SSF hopes to develop a progressively more collaborative relationship with resorts and serve them as well as the public by providing an independent assessment and certification of resort safety performance.