Ski enforcers keeping slopes, skiers safe |

Ski enforcers keeping slopes, skiers safe

William Ferchland

Like a yellow traffic sign warning of rough roads, Ralph Thomas wants skiers and snowboarders to slow down.

Thomas is supervisor of the Yellow Jackets, a team at Heavenly Ski Resort that educates people to slow down in heavy traffic zones and family areas.

On Nov. 28, when the 2003-04 ski season was still in its infancy, Bridgette Clement, 13, died after hitting a tree at Alpine Meadows Ski Resort. It sent a jolt to ski resorts and snow sliders who heard the news. South Shore ski resorts have implemented ways to make guest safety a No. 1 concern by using groups like the Yellow Jackets.

Thomas and his crew of nine are set up at heavy traffic zones to put the brakes on those who speed. First-time offenders will receive a short education on the matter. The second time they’re caught could mean an escort off the mountain.

The Yellow Jackets are in their second year at Heavenly.

Sierra-at-Tahoe has a similar program. The crew has the authority to kick people off the mountain for repeated offenses.

Heavenly and Sierra participate in Safety Awareness Week, a national program designated to raise caution on the slopes. Sierra has Capt. Safety, who wears a red cape and quizzes people on the ski safety code. Prizes are awarded for correct answers.

Contact William Ferchland at