BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                  SB 278
                                                                  Page  1

          Date of Hearing:  June 21, 2011

                           ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY
                                  Mike Feuer, Chair
                    SB 278 (Gaines) - As Amended:  April 25, 2011

                                  PROPOSED CONSENT

           SENATE VOTE  :  38-0
          SUBJECT  :  Public Safety: Ski Resorts

           KEY ISSUES  : 

          1)should ski resorts be required to prepare annual safety plans 
            and make them available upon REQUEST to the public? 

          2)should ski resorts be required to file a monthLY safety and 
            accident report to be available to the pubic upon request?

            policy and trial marking policy?

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  As currently in print the bill is keyed 


          This non-controversial bill would require ski resorts to prepare 
          an annual safety plan and make the plan available for same day 
          viewing by the public upon request.  Additionally, the bill 
          would require a ski resort to file a monthly safety report and 
          include information about all fatal incidents that occurred at 
          the resort within the past month resulting from a recreational 
          activity.  The resort must make the monthly report available 
          within 30 days of receipt of a request to view the report by the 
          general public.  Finally, the bill would require a ski resort to 
          establish its own safety signage policy to indicate open and 
          closed runs, difficulty of runs and the weather and snow 
          conditions on the slopes.  Currently, California ski resorts 
          fall under the jurisdiction of several different federal and 
          state organizations and as a result safety rules and regulations 
          differ widely across the state.  As the author notes, this bill 
          is necessary to standardize safety signage and reporting across 
          California's approximately two-dozen ski resorts to ensure that 
          all California skiers are protected by a set of standard safety 


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          rules.  This Committee considered and supported a similar bill, 
          AB 1652 (Jones, 2010) that was subsequently vetoed by 
          then-Governor Schwarzenegger who claimed the burden imposed by 
          the reporting and signage requirements placed on ski resorts was 
          unnecessary.  The bill is supported by ski safety groups, 
          physicians groups, travel and tourism groups as well as the 
          local sheriffs and has no known opposition.

           SUMMARY  :  Imposes new safety reporting and signage requirements 
          on ski resorts in California.  Specifically,  this bill  :

          1)Requires a ski resort to prepare an annual safety plan, and 
            upon request make the plan available to the public the same 
            day the request is received. 

          2)Requires a ski resort to prepare a monthly report detailing 
            any fatal incidents occurring at the resort that occurred 
            during recreational activity.  This report must be made 
            available within 30 days of the receipt of a request from the 

          3)Requires a ski resort to establish its own signage policy.

          4)Requires a ski resort to establish its own safety padding 
            policy for the resort.

          5)Specifies that none of the provisions shall be construed to 
            change the existing assumption of risk doctrine as it applies 
            to ski resorts.

           EXISTING LAW  :

          1)Under federal law, provides that the Secretary of Agriculture 
            is authorized to issue permits for the use and occupancy of 
            lands within the National Forest System for nordic and alpine 
            skiing operations and purposes.  (Pub. L. 104-333, div. I, 
            Title VII, Sec.701, 110 Stat. 4182; 16 U.S.C. 497c.)

          2)Under federal law, requires the holder of a winter recreation 
            resort permit to prepare and annually revise an operating plan 
            that covers all operations authorized by the permit.  (Pub. L. 
            104-333, div. I, Title VII, Sec.701, 110 Stat. 4182; 16 U.S.C. 
            497c, et seq.)

          3)Requires the reporting of any fatality or injury of a patron 
            requiring more than standard first aid by an operator of 


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            amusement rides to the Department of Occupational Health and 
            Safety.  (Labor Code Sec. 7925.)

          4)Provides that every person who, among other things, willfully 
            commits a trespass by knowingly skiing in an area, or on a ski 
            trail, which is closed to the public and has signs posted 
            indicating the closure, is guilty of a misdemeanor.  (Penal 
            Code Sec. 602(r).)

           COMMENTS  :  This bill will require ski resorts to establish and 
          maintain operational safety plans.  The author notes:

               California has 25 ski resorts, 19 of which are located on 
               public land and are regulated by the US Forest Service or 
               US Park Service.  Each resort maintains an operating plan 
               that includes policies regarding: the posting of signs; 
               warnings related to ski slope conditions, boundaries and 
               known hazards; and the padding of towers and snowmaking 
               equipment.  While each resort maintains a safety plan as a 
               part of its operating plan, there is currently no state law 
               requiring such a document.

               The intent of the bill is to require Ski resorts to prepare 
               a safety plan and provide public access to information 
               regarding ski and snowboard fatalities. It is being 
               introduced because there was a need to have a uniform 
               safety plan among ski resorts that the public could be 
               familiar with, and also a streamlined process for them to 
               be able to access reports of fatalities at these resorts 
               due to snow activities. 

           Lacking Oversight, Safety and Reporting Standards Are Not 
          Uniform Between California Ski Resorts:   California can proudly 
          claim some of America's best downhill skiing resorts.  
          California's 25 resort facilities make up the backbone of the 
          state's ski tourism industry.  However, as a 2008 Assembly 
          Judiciary Committee Hearing on "Ski and Snowboard Health, Safety 
          and Liability Standards" found, California's resorts are not 
          governed by a uniform law.  This bill would standardize the 
          reporting of safety incidents at resorts, and ensure that 
          resorts publish safety plans for the public to view.  
          Most of California's ski resorts are located on federal land, 
          subjecting them to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service.  
          Although the U.S. Forest Service requires resorts to file an 
          annual operating and safety plan and possess the authority to 


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          enforce safety improvements at resorts, the Service takes a 
          "hands off" approach to safety regulation and rarely mandates 
          rules or requires improvements be made.  Additionally, all ski 
          resorts in California enjoy liability protection under 
          California's "primary assumption of risk" doctrine which shifts 
          liability from the resort to the skier for any injury suffered 
          as a result of normal athletic activity.  Furthermore, 
          contractual waivers associated with lift ticket purchases gives 
          resorts added liability protection.  By requiring a resort to 
          create a formal signage and padding policy this bill seeks to 
          lessen the frequency and severity of injuries at ski resorts but 
          in no way alters the liability protections ski resorts currently 

           Good Signage Makes For Safer Skiers:   Regardless of a skier's 
          skill level, the National Ski Areas Association notes proper 
          signage and clearly published safety rules ensure that resort 
          patrons know the boundaries of ski runs, the weather conditions 
          on the mountain and the proper etiquette to be used on the 
          slopes.  Properly informed skiers are better able to assess the 
          risks and hazards posed by skiing and anticipate the dangers on 
          the slopes.  By requiring the resorts to publish accident 
          reports and statistics, skiers can further add to their base of 
          information.  By standardizing the form of publically released 
          information across the state, skiers will be able to better read 
          and understand the warnings regardless of what resort they 
          patronize.  Additionally, standardized notification on the 
          presence of padding allows skiers to pick the safest runs.  
          While resorts must provide a safe and well maintained facility 
          for patrons, the ultimate responsibility for a safe ski 
          experience rests with the individual skier.  This information 
          will help to ensure that skiers truly better understand the risk 
          that they are assuming when skiing, better enable skiers to make 
          informed choices about safety on the ski slopes and better 
          protect the ski resorts from liability associated with accidents 
          occurring in the normal course of the sport.

           Other Related Bills:   SB 105 (Yee) would require all downhill 
          skiers and snowboarders under the age of 18 to wear safety 
          helmets.  That bill would establish a $25 fine on all persons 
          found to violate the helmet requirement.  That bill is scheduled 
          to be heard by this Committee as well as the Assembly Health 

           Prior Legislation  :  AB 1652 (Jones, 2010) was similar to this 
          bill, and would have required ski resorts to prepare an annual 


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          safety plan, make the safety plan available to the public, and 
          make available to the public a monthly report with specified 
          details about any fatal incidents at the resort which resulted 
          from a recreational activity.  The bill would have required a 
          ski resort to establish its own signage policy and its own 
          safety padding policy for the resort.  AB 1652 was vetoed by 
          then-Governor Schwarzenegger who claimed it was an unnecessary 
          burden on resorts.

          SB 880 (Yee) (Ch. 278, Stats. 2010) was nearly identical to SB 
          105 (Yee) which requires minors to wear proper safety helmets 
          while skiing.  SB 880 included a provision making the bill 
          contingent on the enactment of AB 1652 (Jones).  AB 1652 was 
          vetoed by the governor, which subsequently voided SB 880's 
          chaptered status.  SB 105 is not contingent on the passage of 
          this bill.


           California Chapter of American College of Emergency Physicians
          California Chiropractic Association
          California Emergency Nurses Association
          California Ski and Snowboard Safety Organization 
          California Ski Industry Association 
          California State Sheriff's Association
          California Travel Association
          None on file

           Analysis Prepared by  :   Drew Liebert and Nicholas Liedtke / JUD. 
          / (916) 319-2334