Colorado is a popular destination for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports. Unfortunately, these winter activities can be dangerous. In the 2016-17 season, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) reported 33 catastrophic injuries for skiers and snowboarders and 44 fatalities. The NSAA only records life-altering head injuries, broken backs and necks, and paralysis. Many skiers and snowboarders suffer serious injuries that are not recorded as catastrophic injuries by the NSAA. Snowboarders are, particularly at risk. A study performed by researchers at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University found snowboarders are three times more likely to be injured than skiers. Given that Colorado has the fourth most operating ski area in the U.S., it is safe to assume serious injuries, catastrophic injuries, and fatalities occur here each year. If you plan on hitting the slopes in Colorado this winter, take the time to familiarize yourself with the best safety practices. Also, get to know Colorado’s Ski Safety Act (the Act or SSA).
Common Skier and Snowboarder InjuriesAccording to the Warren Alpert study’s lead researcher, Brett. D. Owens, MD, skiing, and snowboarding increase the risk of injuries to the shoulders, hands, wrists, knees, feet, ankles, pelvis, and spine. In other words, your limbs are most at risk while participating in these winter sports, although you can also experience serious injuries to your abdomen and back. Skiers are more likely to experience injuries in their lower extremities. Knee injuries due to twisting motions are very common. Snowboarders are more likely to hurt their upper extremities when they fall on their hands.
Ski Area Operator’s Liability Under the ActIf you or a loved one are injured while skiing or snowboarding because of a condition on the slopes or the ski area’s facilities, you should talk with a lawyer right away about a ski area operator’s liability for injuries – or lack of liability. Ski area operators have immunity from injuries that arise from inherent risks and dangers associated with the sport.
Risks and Hazards under the Colorado Ski ActUnder the Act, there are seven categories of risks and hazards:
- The failure of a skier to ski within the bounds of their own abilities.
- Collisions between skiers.
- Variations in steepness or terrain in the ski area, such as roads, freestyle terrain, jumps, and catwalks.
- Impacts with natural or man-made objects that skiers commonly encounter on the slopes, including signs, lift towers, fences, posts, enclosures, hydrants, or water pipes.
- Surface or subsurface conditions in the ski area, such as bare spots, trees, stumps, streambeds, cliffs, and other natural objects.
- Changing snow conditions, including hardpack, powder, packed powder, wind pack, slush, and ice.
- Changing weather conditions.