Tracking Down The Reckless Party: YOU Must Capture Data At The Scene.

Mark Stangl, Steamboat, CO

What Happened: Snowboarder collided with me from behind, causing a spiral leg fracture.  Both fibula and tibia were broken and required internal hardware treatments.  Major life changes and financial impacts resulted. (The snowboarder was from Panama and although at fault resisted all contact from my attorney and was shielded by the corrupt legal system there.)

Role of Ski Patrol: Transported me from the slopes to the local hospital.  Patrol did not conduct an accident investigation, nor help identify nor locate the snowboarder.  My friends snapped a cellphone image of the on-the-spot ‘incident report’, but name and contact information were wrong, or “wildly incomplete”.  Later inquiry to Steamboat about identity and location yielded a response of “Too bad. Here is the policy indicating it is not our job to authenticate information given to us by patrons”. 

Subsequently, a Denver TV station conducted an investigation and aired the results.  The ski area stonewalled their questions, but undercover work revealed the high number of injuries at that ski area every year.  Over 3,000!  Link to that TV aired report is here

Followup investigation to 12 other ski areas and industry trade groups were further stonewalled, or responded to with the common façade of “…myth out there…our numbers are so low…”.

Lessons Learned:  A systemic concealment and conspiracy is in existence regarding skier safety by the industry.  An image of “wonderful family experience” is shadowed by the truth of high non-fatal injury rates, and exculpatory laws/waivers releasing the operators from virtually all responsibility. 

Advice:  Upon being the victim of an”at fault accident”, call police and report an assault.  Have others snap a photo of the offenders ski pass or ticket.  Tracking data is available from that.  Detain the offender if possible, and call patrol.

For Prevention:  Wear a flashing red bicycle light on your helmet facing back.  These are being used by seniors to alert followers and seem to inspire attention.

12 Comments

  1. Thank you for this report. I have felt for many years that the ski industry is now the same as the tobacco industry was 30 years ago. They deny that their product causes any harm to anyone. Its time for big lawsuits, congressional hearings, and jail time for a few executives.

    • Reading the several comments what strikes me is that the Resorts have not done their part to make slopes safer. Nothing new, just another re-confirmation on the same theme. It is way past ‘time is up’. I suggest Seniors Skiing members inquire each time they ski at a resort, get as high up the supervisor chain as you can, and inquire about what the resort is doing to manage recklessness. Advocate for effective actions, new technology use and do not take the usual blah, blah, blah for an answer.

  2. Avatar MPaul Hansen says:

    From an ex-volunteer patroller: The lawyers and risk managers and insurance firms of ski areas dictate response if any. Always ski with friends if possible, as an ethic seems to exist in some in the general public of not caring at all about others. i can not begin to recount the many, many times our ski patrol warning and signs etc. were ignored by the general public. ie skiing out of control, too fast, ducking under ropes to access closed areas, etc.. Then these individuals expect assistance when they get themselves into trouble. A number of years ago a slide fatality occurred at Crystal Mtn WA when some ignored warnings NOT to go off trails on a day when fresh snowfall was particularly prone to sloughing.

  3. Your points are valid but miss the mark. The question is how to protect those of us who do follow the rules. In the last couple of years I have been taken out twice by out-of-control snow boarders. It has literally been decades since I have seen ski patrol pull a ticket.

  4. Avatar Randy White says:

    One productive comment I can make towards some potential advancement to reduce the frequency of occurrence of such collisions and advance courtesy: The mountain establishes a ‘reckless skier hot line’, you phone in a report, the ski area dispatches personnel to apprehend the reckless person. At lift bottom or on slope. After ID confirmation, the person’s pass is suspended and they are brought in for ‘counselling’. Such a practice is in place at Telluride. 970-728-7569 (slow)

  5. Avatar David Hoffman says:

    There will be trend here as it seems snowboarders are running into other people on the slope. I think there is a lack of teaching trail ethics to new boarders and skiers. At Breckenridge last year a boarder ran over the back of my wife’s skis. Fortunately no one was her but the run was at least 5 lanes wide and she was staying to one side of the trail. How that person couldn’t or wouldn’t see her is a mystery.

  6. In 2011 my husband and I took first runs on groomed trails at a resort in New England. This was a wide open trail and with first runs hardly anyone else skiing/boarding at that hour. I was behind my husband a bit on the run when a young skier (not snowboarder) went barreling past me and my first impression was that the guy was way out of control. When I caught up I saw two skiers down quite a distance apart from each other, at first not realizing one was my husband. He was out cold on the slope for a very long time not responding. Shortly some other skiers showed up (possibly ski patrol) and went over to the other skier and I saw him get up and just ski away – no comment , nothing. He just disappeared. Shortly the ski patrol arrived for my husband and he finally opend his eyes. They took him to triage and he had no memory of what happend as he was hit from behind. He was transported to a local hospital, then to a major hospital with a slight neck fracture, and a bleed on the brain. After 3 days he was discharged with short term memory issues, several followup CT Scans of the brain. He was hit from behind by that out of control skier who never was “caught”. My husband felt he never really came back 100% from that accident. Seven years later he was diagnosed with stage 4 glioblsastom, diffuse and aggressive- brain cancer- and passed away 4 months after that diagnosis. Everyone always asked if these 2 events were related. Doctors said no but no one really knows. Ski Patrol did their job and were great at treating my husband. But that skier was so out of control. My husband never knew what hit him. He landed so hard that his goggle lens had a crack in it. Thank god he was wearing a helmet. That skier, if that happened today, yea, maybe someone could take pictures of the accident after it happened.. But with todays technology resorts are moving to plastic tickets kept in your pocket that get scanned at the lifts. There are no tickets exposed that you could take a picture of. There needs to be a better way. And if the skiers can’t be responsible then the resort should be. How about cameras at least on some of the slopes where accidents happen alot. Maybe someone sitting at a desk monitoring the camers so patrol can chase down the “violators” before the accident happens. After all some of the resorts have cameras to take pictures of the slopes to show potential skiers that there is lots of snow on the mountain. If the skiers should ski responsibly so should the resort act responsibly too. Warning signs are not enough. And keeping skiers safe should be the priority. I am still a “senior” skier and will ski as long as I can, but always looking over my shoulder to see what is coming up from behind.

    • Molly…so sorry for your husbands tragic experience. Your idea of cameras on slope sites where accidents occur a lot is a good start. Resorts know those sites, technology is available. A person monitoring the image scenes, and in contact with lift loading staff could result in apprehension of an offender. But then what? Well at least the offenders pass can be suspended, and intervention exercised. Better yet; get the local sheriff dept involved to investigate an ‘undo care and attention’ violation. In many states it is ILLEGAL to leave the scene of an accident. In Canada staying on scene is in their 10 point CODE. See GPASS.CA for more on ski safety.

  7. Yesterday I looked back up the hill after stopping to take a breath. I saw a snowboarder with her back to me, near the top of the trail. I thought I imagined it but later, when she passed me, I saw her do the same thing. She was looking at friends behind her.

    She was not riding out of control, and did not come close to colliding with anyone. But the first time I saw her the sight was so jarring, my mind couldn’t quite believe it was real.

    Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

  8. Avatar April Umlauf says:

    I’ve been hit from behind twice in very recent years, by skiers both times and both times it was a very hard hit, never knew they were there and totally took me out. Fortunately, I wasn’t injured… other than skyrocketing blood pressure. One WAS a senior skier (probably 10+ years older than me, so mid to late 70’s) and both accused me of turning in front of them! In the incident with the older skier, he and I were the only ones on the slope! “What don’t you understand about the Responsibility Code?!?!” Not to be a snot to him about it, but I told the “old” guy, “if you drove like that, they’d take your keys away!” (not to mention the expletives that uncontrollably flew off my tongue…. ) With the other guy that hit me, my husband saw it happen so I really didn’t need to scream at him like a crazy woman (although I did). My husband came up as the guy was blaming me for turning in front of him and simply said “It’s #2… Go read it!” “What?!?” “It’s #2… People ahead of you have the right of way! GO READ IT!!”
    I have skied my entire life and I’ve taught (and continue to teach) skiing for many years and am acutely aware of the inherent risks; obviously that doesn’t make me any less likely to get smeared on a slope by an out of control skier than anyone else. What I don’t understand is people who try to ‘predict’ the next move of someone below them on the slope! Or those who ski fast and out of control on a crowded slope. What don’t they get about what happens when they hit another ‘object’ while moving at a relatively high rate of speed?
    I had cards printed with the Responsibility Code made up for our Ski School here in PA. I carry a handful of them with me at all times and when I see people skiing out of control, I hand them out like candy at Halloween (if I can catch up to them).
    Can you tell this is a pet peeve? Mark, I sincerely hope your very unfortunate accident didn’t end your skiing career. That would be much more devastating than the day we may finally just phase ourselves out of the sport (I’m thinking maybe at some point in my 90’s… if I’m lucky…)
    Thanks for listening…

  9. Avatar Michael B. Huggins says:

    I think people, myself included, use other people as “slalom poles” to get their control/accuracy of turns. What I didn’t, and they don’t realize or think about, is what happens when the “pole” moves in a way they don’t expect.
    I give a much wider margin now and am happy to stand and wait while faster skiers and riders and large groups go by.
    Safety first!
    Brad

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