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Story by Joe Stevens

Hello Everyone – 

I have been thinking for a number of days about the unfortunate lift mishap a couple of weeks ago in Maine. In my current position as spokesman for the West Virginia Ski Areas Association I anticipated media inquiries in relation to follow-up stories on what happens at mountain state ski resorts in terms of lift maintenance and safety inspections. I only handled two interviews and both really didn’t surprise me on the final outcome.

First off, a veteran Washington, DC TV reporter started her questioning with a death and destruction attitude and seemed to be taken back when I responded to her first questions of “How often are the lifts inspected?” “Daily.” “Daily,” she said, “oh really, I didn’t realize that occurred.” From there the interview turned more into an educational process with me letting her know that each resort has a staff of mechanics dedicated to lift maintenance and insurance companies required thorough inspections or a policy wouldn’t be written. Her story was a very positive one, informing the public that West Virginia ski resorts provided safe operating lifts. Again I am the spokesman for the WVSAA but I know all of the resorts in the region follow the same hard-line safety guidelines as it pertains to lift maintenance and safety.

Now for reporter number two, a relatively new Shenandoah Valley TV reporter who started her questioning by asking if “anyone had ever asked if lifts were safe to ride” and didn’t sway from that point despite the additional info I gave to her in the same fashion as the previous reporter. She didn’t care about lift maintenance, lift inspectors or anything else, just if people were ever scared to ride the lifts. Luckily she did her standup and skier on the slopes interviews at Massanutten Resort in Virginia and the resort’s Director of Business Operations Kenny Hess (an industry veteran) was her main contact. The story didn’t change any from her thought process but I believe Kenny was able to lead her in the correct direction as the story was basically harmless so to speak.

So where am I going with this column? It’s a case of story follow-up and being aware when you see, read or hear a story of this nature to understand the story may have been written before the reporter ever left the newsroom and didn’t leave any room for new information. I do believe in calling a spade a spade but if a story is only the perception of a reporter’s thoughts and that reporter won’t listen to reasoning, buyer beware.

That’s it for this week, just remember whether it be cold or whether it be hot, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. Think about it! See you on the slopes.

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Joe Stevens, a member of the southeast ski industry since 1990 is a regular columnist for skisoutheast.com and serves as the Communications Director for the West Virginia Ski Areas Association.

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