Last winter a record 58.9 million skiers and snowboarders hit the nation’s slopes. This season, Colorado resorts are on a pace to break last winter’s record of 12.53 million skier visits, with 6.74 percent more in the first part of the season than the same period last year, the industry recently reported. The resorts had nearly 3.3 million skier visits from October through December 2006, up 207,533 when compared to the same period in 2005.
While the mountains have less snow than last year’s near-record, TV coverage of snow-covered Denver has well-publicized the great skiing conditions. And Colorado resorts have benefited from the lack of snow suffered in the East and most of Europe.
Colorado’s destination resorts, including Aspen, Steamboat Springs, Telluride and Crested Butte, have had the biggest increase in skier visits, 11.9 percent over the same period of 2005. Those resorts are farther from Denver’s airport and attract vacation visitors, especially Europeans.
More skiers means longer lift lines – a frustration which many resorts are trying to address by improving area lifts. Six Colorado ski resorts installed new lifts for this season. Most renovations include faster lifts that transport more people per chair – thus resulting in a much higher concentration of skiers and boarders on the slopes.
Ski Defensively or Suffer Consequences
Last year, seven people died of injuries at Colorado ski areas and Colorado has already had its first fatality of the new season. The most common type of ski accident is a collision, either with a fellow skier or with an inanimate object, and traumatic head injuries are frequently the cause of death.
Anyone who has been on the slopes recently has noticed not only the increase in the number of skiers, but also the dramatic increase in the number of helmeted skiers.
In an authoritative pediatric study, “Trends in Pediatric Skier and Snowboarder Injuries,” (TCH 2004) Lori A. McBride, MD, Ken R. Winston, MD, and Robert E. Breeze, MD reported on 215 patients, including skiers and snowboarders. Head injuries comprised 59 of the 215 patients, or 27.4%. There were three deaths in the series. All three were unhelmeted female skiers who struck a fixed object. No severe head injuries were reported among the helmeted children admitted following a skiing/snowboarding accident. Other studies support these findings, and even Colorado Ski Country USA, the trade organization representing 26 Colorado ski resorts, recommends wearing a helmet.
So, the first step is to wear a helmet for protection. Then pay attention to your surroundings. This means no music through earphones and no alcohol or drugs which inhibit your ability to react. Look around you, note the line of travel and speed of skiers around you.
When skiers collide, Colorado law presumes that the uphill skier is at fault for the accident, because the overtaking skier has the primary duty to avoid the skier below him or her. Thus, one of the key issues in any collision case is who was the uphill or overtaking skier. The nature of the injury often gives substantial clues as to how the accident occurred, the speed at which the skiers were skiing, and the relative angles to each other. All skiers are under a general duty to ski cautiously, within their ability and to maintain control. The Colorado Ski Safety Statute provides that skiers are obliged to maintain a lookout. If one fails to ski in control or to maintain a lookout, the skier is negligent and responsible for the injuries and damages caused.