No insurance hike for Whistler Mountain
By Bob Mackin
Whistler Mountain's insurance broker says last December's fatal accident on the Quicksilver lift will not affect the ski area's insurance fees.
Norm Duncan, vice-president of Vancouver's Marsh & McLennan, said insurance underwriters factor on catastrophic accidents, like last year's, occurring every five-to-seven years. Rate increases are most often based on the frequency of claims, rather than the magnitude of individual incidents.
"There's some upward pressure on rates in the liability area because of claims, but that's one of many claims," Duncan said. "That particular incident on its own wouldn't necessarily impact rates."
Duncan said policies for ski areas are very similar to those for homeowners.
"If you had a $50,000 fire in your kitchen tonight, your rates would probably not go up. But if you had three break-and-enters that were $1,800 to $2,500 each, you would see a big reaction from the insurance companies. The total might only be $7,500 versus $50,000, but there would be more reaction to the frequency than size of the claim."
Duncan said Whistler Mountain is "an overall great operation" with exemplary maintenance and personnel. He said the same underwriters that were insuring Whistler Mountain at the time of the accident have renewed the policies.
Marsh & McLennan is the broker for 70 ski areas in Canada, almost a third of which are in B.C. The company has worked with Whistler Mountain for 11 years.
At press time, Duncan was attending a risk management conference at Silver Star in Vernon. Representatives of the insurance industry were meeting with ski area operators to discuss safety issues prior to the 1996-97 ski season.
One man died and another was paralyzed when four chairs fell from the Quicksilver line on Dec. 23, 1995. Another man died later of complications from the accident. A coroner’s report on the accident has been written but not yet released to the public.
The Quicksilver, manufactured by Lift Engineering of Carson City, Nev., has been removed and is being replaced by a high-speed gondola manufactured by Poma. Lift Engineering is under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors.