Apr 12, 2024 - News

Fears of ski crashes rise as Colorado's resorts report larger crowds

People standing in line in ski gear at a Colorado resort

Skiers and snowboarders in line at the Rocky Mountain Super Chair lift on Peak 8 at Breckenridge. Photo: Andy Cross//The Denver Post via Getty Images

Micki Amick saw a snowboarder crash into someone at Keystone resort and ride away, so she chased him down.

When she caught up, she informed him about the law requiring him to not leave an injured skier without providing contact information. He essentially shrugged. And when she snapped his photo and took it to ski patrol headquarters in hopes they could track him down, they shrugged, too.

What she's saying: "It made me think there's a bigger problem here. There's real danger on the slopes and no one seems to care about it," she told the Colorado Sun, recalling the Feb. 28 incident.

State of play: The concern about ski and snowboard crashes is reaching new levels, according to the Sun, which analyzed five years' worth of state and local health and emergency records.

  • The number of collisions and injuries reported on ski slopes in Colorado is rising with the increasing number of riders at resorts.
Data: Consumer Product Safety Commission; Reproduced from the Colorado Sun; Note: Estimate based on sample of 100 U.S. hospitals; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, but: The true extent of the problem is obscured by ski area operators who don't disclose the data — unlike nearly every other industry — and by authorities who don't investigate or pursue criminal charges against skiers at fault, the publication's reporting found.

  • A 2022 survey of 4,320 skiers conducted by students at Fort Lewis College in Durango, found 60% reporting being hit in on-slope crashes and half called it "more of an issue" than the past. Most of the skiers surveyed were from Colorado and had at least 15 years of experience.

The big picture: Ski areas are not required to make public injury reports, and the national industry provides only select researchers access every 10 years.

  • In 2010, the most recent year available, 13,145 injuries were reported, or 0.3% of visitors.
  • A limited glimpse at new data is expected later this year.

By the numbers: From 2017-2021, state figures show most trauma center admissions for patients from resort incidents are male (65%) and the most common injuries are to arms, legs and shoulders (63%), the Sun found. Most injured are between the ages of 20 and 29.

Zoom in: Colorado law requiring a person involved in a collision to provide their name and contact information to the other person is rarely followed. Ski patrol try to help but often don't. Resorts put obstacles in the way of those seeking information about who hit them in the name of customer privacy.

Between the lines: Even the rare cases in which criminal charges are filed in injury-related crashes often lead to a dead end.

  • Eagle County Sheriff's Office deputies have investigated 27 hit-and-run cases since 2016, the Sun reported, but charges were filed in just six. The district attorney declined to prosecute all but two, with one leading to a deferred sentence and another to a pretrial diversion program.
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