Now, however, a recently formed organization called Safe Slopes Colorado is making a new push for transparency — and bolstering its call is data assembled by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment that reveals the impact of injuries in greater specificity than ever before. During the 2018-2019 ski season, for example, ski accidents resulted in more than 8,000 emergency room visits and nearly 1,600 ambulance transports. For an average 120-day season, that breaks down to 66 trips to the ER and thirteen ambulance rides related to skiing every single day.
Safe Slopes Colorado's Russ Rizzo certainly isn't anti-skiing. He loves the sport and has participated in it for years — but he admits that "I never really thought about safety on the slopes until I had kids." He grew particularly concerned in February 2019, when a six-year-old was hospitalized after falling from a chairlift at Eldora.
"Parents were pretty surprised to learn that a four-year-old at a ski school would have been allowed to go on a chairlift by themselves and be expected to know how to get on and off — and if anything went wrong, there's nothing in the law that says the resort has any responsibility about what happens to this child," Rizzo says. "That was the aha moment."
Rizzo subsequently teamed with other ski-safety organizations, including Boulder-based Parents for Safe Skiing and the nationally focused SnowSport Safety Foundation, which was founded by Dan Gregorie, whose daughter died in a 2006 California skiing accident. (Gregorie was the subject of a 2017 Westword profile.) This collective managed to get the CDPHE involved, and the agency compiled a treasure trove of information.
Some of the major takeaways from the data, which was also shared with the Colorado Sun, is summarized in this Safe Slopes Colorado graphic.
Here are the details.
Here are the details:
Colorado Ski Country USA has regularly stressed such points, and back in February 2018, Dave Byrd, director of risk and regulatory affairs for the Lakewood-based National Ski Areas Association, told us that more people die of lightning strikes than in skiing accidents every year.
This pitch has thus far fended off legislative action to mandate ski areas to share more information publicly, as we detailed in "Colorado Ski Resort Safety and Why Politicians Aren't Trying to Improve It." But Rizzo has been communicating with assorted lawmakers about the need for change, and he's cautiously optimistic that a bill on the subject will be introduced in the session set to start in January 2021.
While Rizzo acknowledges that skiing carries inherent risks, he strongly believes that the sport can be made safer, "and getting more transparency is a start," he says.
Click for more Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment ski-injury data from 2017-2018.