Dr. Dan Gregorie's daughter died in a tragic ski accident. Now he has founded the California Ski and Snowboard Safety Organization, which advocates for standardized safety measures. Here's what he says every mom needs to know.
News of Natasha Richardson's traumatic ski injury brought back painful memories for Dr. Dan Gregorie. Yesterday would have been his daughter's birthday. But her life ended on the ski slopes a few years ago.
While snowboarding, Gregorie's 24-year-old daughter, Jessica, lost her balance as a result of the icy conditions and plunged 200 feet down a series of steep embankments. An autopsy revealed that Gregorie died from multiple internal and external injuries.
According to a press release from CSSSO, the area where Gregorie fell to her death did not have fences or warning signs in place, and no signs or fences were placed there following the accident.
Dr. Gregorie cannot comment on the specifics of his daughter's death due to pending litigation, but he wants to get the word out to moms about resort safety -- or lack thereof.
"What I'd say to most parents is that you really need to pay attention to where your kids are going for ski sport experience," he says.
Before you take your kids skiing or send your older kids on a ski trip, he recommends moms do the following:
- Call the ski resort and ask them for their safety policies, procedures and plans -- especially the accident prevention plans. "If they won't give them to you, I would not take my kids there," he says. "As a parent, pay special attention to resorts you are choosing. Most of their focus is on telling the customer what they need to do to stay safe. But what is the resort doing operationally to keep skiers safe?"
"I assumed with my own daughter that a resort knows where the risks are and does what they can to mitigate those risks," he says. "You think that they are exercising due diligence and care, but that's not always the case. In California, there's no accountability, responsibility, or liability for ski resorts."
- Ask the resort: "How many deaths and serious injuries did you have at your resort last year, and how does that compare to other resorts in the area?"
Dr. Gregorie warns that many resorts do not account for deaths that occur off-property. For instance, if a skier is injured on the slopes and then flown to a hospital where they later die, the resort does not calculate that fatality.
- If your kids are beginner skiers, look for a resort that has a separate beginners' area in a protected environment. Most resorts have beginners' slopes that merge into other slopes.
- Insist kids (and parents) wear a helmet at all times -- most states require motorcycle helmets, but no states require ski helmets. "But skiing is a risky sport -- anytime you're going 20 to 25 mph, in a crowded environment, it's a risk," Dr. Gregorie says. "Helmets are always recommended."
- Get your kid's skiing ability assessed by an expert, and make sure your kids only use slopes that align with their ability. "Most kids inflate their skiing ability in their own minds, putting themselves and other people at risk," Dr. Gregorie warns.
Currently, Dr. Gregorie's organization is trying to get legislation passed that would require California ski resorts to:
- report all deaths and serious injuries that occur at their resorts.
- post their safety plans both on their websites and at their resorts.
- standardize signage for hazards and traffic management, and standardize the way they grade slopes.
"There's a lot that can be done in the area of accident prevention and safety," says Dr. Gregorie. "No, you can't prevent all the accidents, but there are most definitely things that resorts can do to minimize the risks."