Rep. backs off drunken-skier bill
A state lawmaker says he won’t run a bill next year that would crack down on those who ski while intoxicated.
"I really don’t intend to run a bill," Rep. Mike Morley, a Republican from Spanish Fork, said in an interview Wednesday. "I just wanted to make sure they are empowered to do whatever they need to do to regulate and take care of that issue."
But resort officials already regulate drunken skiers with guidelines from the American National Standards Institute, Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty said.
"These resorts and lifties have all the authority they need to be able to deny people access, and they do, do that," he said. "Our industry’s top concern is the safety of the skiers and snowboarders at our resorts."
Skiing while intoxicated in Utah can result in a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine, Rafferty said.
"There are sometimes some unintended consequences when you look at things like this. In this case, those unintended consequences are the tourism industry suffering from a problem that we are always getting beaten up for, which is an image problem with us and sometimes quirky alcohol rules," he said, adding, "This doesn’t help us get past that stereotype."
Ski Utah has been "proactive in responding to Representative Morley’s requests," Rafferty said.
"They sent me a letter indicating that they are going to strictly enforce no open containers of any kind on the lift," Morley said. "I’m satisfied that they’ve got the tools, now they just need to train their personnel."
The representative toyed with drafting legislation for the 2007 general session of the Legislature that could have required operators of ski resorts to ban drinking and open containers of alcohol from the slopes.
"They’ve satisfied me that they are going to do whatever they need to do to make sure that’s not a hazard or a problem," Morley said about discussions he had with ski industry officials since news of the bill broke Monday. "From a state standpoint, we’re not in a real position to be sticking policeman on the slopes If they’re willing to train their people, that was the whole point."
The issue likely captured media attention because Utah is known for its quirky liquor laws, Morley said.
"This probably came to light because some reporters had a slow news day," he said. "They played on the alcohol issue."
According to the Associated Press, Morley said a constituent complained that he had ridden on a ski lift last winter next to a man who was drunk and drinking from an open container. The constituent complained to the hill operator and the manager of the resort.
"He told him that he couldn’t do anything about an open container on the lift, that he didn’t have any authority to handle that," Morley told the AP. "We believe he does."
He described the bill as a "shot across the bow" to ski resorts.
"I expect that they will take whatever measures are necessary to resolve this," Morley said. "It’s in their best interest to make sure that the resorts are safe."
Paramedics in Park City don’t treat many injuries that result from drunken skiing, Park City Fire District spokeswoman Tricia Hurd said.
"Certainly we have responded to people like that but I wouldn’t say that it’s a problem," she said. "If it is a problem on the slopes, we don’t see it."
Rafferty insists Utah’s laws regarding skiing while intoxicated are already stricter than Colorado’s.
Skiing drunk is a violation of the Colorado Ski Safety Act and could result in a $1,000 fine, said Molly Cuffe, director of communications for Colorado Ski Country USA, an industry group.
"[Resorts] do have the authority to remove anyone who is intoxicated and the ski resorts are always on the lookout for things like this," Cuffe said.
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