Skiing in an area marked off as closed will be a misdemeanor under legislation passed today by the Senate on a 46-2 vote. Having already passed the House of Representatives, the bill now goes to the governor to be signed into law.
Senate Bill 5186, sponsored by Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, addresses the prevalence of skiers and snowboarders who knowingly ski in areas owned or controlled by ski area operators where there are signs indicating the area is closed to the public.
“This is a problem I’ve experienced firsthand. Five people have died going into closed areas in the last 10 years at Crystal Mountain,” said Kastama, who is a volunteer ski patroller. “These areas are closed for a reason, and the people who trespass into them risk not only their own lives but the lives of ski patrollers who follow them to assist or rescue them.”
Areas are typically closed off due to the threat of avalanche conditions, both natural and manmade in the form of avalanche control. Kastama said he was aware of more than 500 people who had crossed over into closed areas at his ski area in the last three years and that his legislation mirrors laws in California and other states.
“These are the same types of restrictions you have in areas like artillery ranges, hunting areas and railroad crossings,” he said. “This is a public safety issue. Skiers and snowboarders are still free to go off course and anywhere they please in the back country. They just need to stay out of the danger areas that are marked off for safety reasons.”