Now that the ski season has gone into high gear, many residents are organizing their schedules to figure out the perfect time to hit the slopes. Some adults are planning on getting their kids or even themselves skiing lessons to hone their skills or learn new ones.
For tourists and newcomers to the Colorado mountains, skiing on these slopes might seem like a terrifying thought. There have been several stories of skiers getting into serious accidents that result in devastating injuries or death during their trip through the snow. Many of these reported incidents have similarities between them that indicate which types of skiers are more likely to get themselves hurt on the mountains. Every skier should be aware of these common factors before they plan their next trip to avoid making similar mistakes.
When it comes to most injuries in the workplace or a sport, you often hear horror stories about someone new to the field damaging themselves after not listening, not being taught correctly or just making one costly mistake or poor decision. There are a number of skiers out there who often hurt themselves because they did not listen to their instructor or they had a difficult time controlling themselves on the hill. The downhill nature of alpine skiing makes it hard for those new to the sport to stop or recover on the slope.
However, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) states that most of the people who kill themselves while skiing are above-average skiers. Nearly 70 percent of the fatalities are athletes in their late teens to late 30s, the optimal ages for the sport. Many experienced skiers overestimate their skills and try to go fast on intermediate trails, often colliding with a tree, rock or another skier in the process. Even though newcomers are not as skilled, they appear to have a heightened safety concern that keeps their fatality numbers relatively low.
People often debate on whether skiing or snowboarding is safer. While both sports have their advantages and risks, the annual accident reports often show a consistent pattern: There tend to be more injuries in snowboarding, but more deaths in skiing. Snowboarders focus more on performing tricks, going off jumps and the sport tends to be harder to learn. Skiing places more emphasis on speed, but that speed is also what leads to several of these fatalities. The 2015-16 season shows the stark differences between the two sports, as there were 31 skiing fatalities and 7 snowboarder fatalities.
The season also demonstrated the importance of helmets to the sport. Out of the 38 known deaths, 23 of them were wearing helmets. More athletes have worn helmets over the years, but many younger skiers still enjoy the wind blowing past their hair too much. The NSAA states that helmet use can reduce the chances of head injury by 30 to 50 percent. However, they also believe that helmets may be giving some skiers a false sense of security. The increase in helmet usage has not drastically reduced the amount of deaths in the last decade. High speeds often decrease the helmet’s effectiveness on the skier if they collide into an object or person.
What to take away
While experience levels and equipment may not be the direct cause of the deaths of several skiers, they did contribute to these accidents in some form. Both of these factors impact a skier’s mentality and speed. A skier may feel more confident if they are experienced and wearing a helmet, leading them to go at high speeds and drastically increase their chances of colliding into something.
Skiers of all ages and skill levels should be allowed to have fun and show off their skills on the slope. However, everyone needs to keep safety as a top priority no matter what they wear, what slope they are on and how experienced they are. Ski accidents could result in costly injuries that could disable someone for life or even kill them. Those with major injuries as a result of a collision on the mountain should contact legal assistance to see if they have a case worth pursuing compensation for.