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Editor’s Note: TheSkiDiva.com is an online community of women skiers without the male orientation. The forum’s founder, Wendy Clinch, recently posted this report, comprised, in part, of comments by forum participants.

Source: #RideAnotherDay

In the past few weeks, there have been at least 10 deaths at North American ski resorts. While one death is way too many, The National Ski Areas Association says ski fatalities are pretty rare: as low as one for every one million visitors to a ski resort. (It’s also noted that more men are victims of skiing accident deaths than women).

Despite this, many participants on TheSkiDiva forum believe that resort skiing has become increasingly dangerous.

This season, stories of near misses, collisions, and risky behavior are all too common. And while I don’t have the data, it seems like the situation is getting increasingly worse.

What’s the cause? Some say the slopes are more crowded because of multi-resort passes and the ability of high-speed chairs to get more people on the hill. Some believe the problem is caused by ski movies and social media glorifying risky, extreme behavior, treating it as though it’s part of the norm. Others believe skiers and riders are distracted by music, texting, and selfies. And some feel that equipment has evolved to the point where people are skiing beyond their abilities.

HERE ARE A FEW EDITED COMMENTS POSTED BY FORUM MEMBERS: 

  • I’ve been quitting earlier these days because I’m concerned that someone will hit me. It’s not fun when the slopes are crowded with hotshots or folks who are skiing beyond their abilities. We avoid weekends when we can.
  • As someone who only skis weekends, it seems the mountains are more crowded, and people aren’t being mindful of those around them. I’ve noticed many near collisions and had a few incidents where someone got way too close while trying to pass me. In two cases they whizzed right over the tips of my skis causing me to lose my balance.
  • Cheap season passes have resulted in dangerous slopes on busy days, primarily Saturdays. Way too many people I know have been hit by others. The way the terrain parks are laid out where I ski adds greatly to the kamikaze attitude, ineptitude, and general disregard for anyone else on the mountain. I am sad to say that all I hear are excuses. I’m pretty over it. The perspective definitely changes when you have a child out there.
  • I quit skiing at our local bump because of crowds and out of control skiers. It’s been a zoo. I was working with a friend on the long beginner run when an out of control kid scared the sh*t out of her, causing her to fall and break her wrist. I was done after that; it could have been me.
  • I was hit hard enough to be knocked out of my bindings. Ski patrol did notpull the person’s pass even though he had been straight lining down the mountain while I stood stopped in plain view with other skiers at the bottom

There’s no question that ski safety is an important issue that needs to be addressed. Here are a feww suggestions from forum members about what can be done: 

  • Limit ticket sales:Crowded slopes are more dangerous slopes. Require skiers to go online and reserve their spots at least 24 hours in advance. This might help reduce overcrowding.
  • Require everyone who buys a pass to go through interactive safety presentation. Make it mandatory for those under 18; give everyone else an incentive (e.g. $10. off or special lift access for completing training.
  • Hold people accountable. Don’t tolerate unsafe behavior.This requires policing from resort personnel. Mammoth patrollers take photos of violators’ passes. Guests with a second speeding offense are required to screen the “Ride Another Day” video and take a quiz before their pass is reactivated.
  • Better regulate/police alcohol and marijuana use.Many on the forum believe that the mix of skiing or riding with alcohol and/or weed, particularly among minors, results in alarming behavior. No one should be allowed to ski or ride under the influence.
  • See something, say something.Let resort personnel know when you see unsafe behavior, and make it clear that this is something you will not tolerate. The more we make our feelings known about this, the better.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO IMPROVE YOUR OWN SAFETY?

  • Wear a helmet. This can reduce can reduce the risk of sustaining a head injury by as much as 29 to 56%.
  • Make sure your bindings have the proper DIN setting for your size and ability.
  • Always look uphill before taking off, and always be aware of your surroundings.
  • Give the downhill skier the right of way.
  • Always ski in control.
  • Don’t ski alone in the trees or backcountry.
  • Avoid tree wells.

Stay safe out there, everyone.

20 Comments

  1. Chic Lasser says:

    Good luck getting areas to police the mountain! Level 3 cert instructor here and we can’t Dona thing to control this. Worse yet either can the patrol at our mountain. It’s all about the MONEY, take a ticket away and you lose that customer. Even with crowded slopes no one is losing that $100 ticket. I agree with your readers, but I’ve given up and now ski with my 4 eyes.

  2. This season skiing at Gunstock( March 2021) in NH my 9 yr old granddaughter stuck by out of control skier, thrown her up in the air striking myself(76 yrs old), then I was thrown off the trial into woods. Granddaughter suffered concussion, rib injury or me. Trail was not crowded, low intermediate well groomed trail from mountain summit.
    Teen that caused the accident ,who was skiing with his father, said he did not know how to turn or stop. Why was he on that part of the mountain with an adult? Parent and child just plain stupid! Ski Patrol has a roll in safety on the slopes. Are they enforcing rules of skiing in control? I see many kids flying down the mountain, straight line, in snow plow position. Adults’ flying pass you at 50 mi/hr missing me by inches. I have a season pass and ski every weekend never once have I witnessed people being told to slow down. My pass is free because off my age…free or not, Gunstock is not the kind of mountain for us. They have a out of control, safety issue that needs to be addressed, not an isolated incident.

  3. Thanks Wendy. In my experience only about half look up before starting down. Since I am aware this is such a likely scenario I use caution when approaching skiers and boarders looking down, getting ready. I know it’s my responsibility to avoid them when they do. The other hazard is boarders that sit down out of sight over a knoll because it’s easier for them to get up from a steep. Often they do it right in the middle of the run. Instead of taking a jump, take a look. Good luck out there.

  4. It’s Christmas crowds every weekend at Kirkwood. Way too many people on a slope at once.
    Four years ago, a Snowboarder above a trail merge looked challenged. Having about 300 feet, I merged and was purposely skiing on the extreme edge with short terns. With over 60 feet of trail width, he hit me with a body block to my back to save himself from falling. Unfortunately, he caught my arm just below the shoulder and dislocated it, destroying the rotator cuff. He never even stopped. 4.5 hours of reconstruction surgery and a a year after and I was fully recovered. This teen had no business on anything but a beginner run.

    Thanks to Vail our gem of a resort is now overcrowded and full of skiers with very low skill level.

  5. Charles Falchetti says:

    Why not offer free beginner lessons with emphasis on safety to all skiers.

  6. Richard Kavey says:

    Wendy, You are correct that collisions caused by reckless skiers are increasing. You fail to mention that the reason you have no statistics on the carnage is that the ski areas refuse to release the data! This is a large part of the problem in addition to most ski areas being unwilling to police reckless skiing for fear of turning away business. There is no coordinated effort w teeth to address this important problem. Perhaps you could lead such an effort. It is greatly needed.

  7. Another problem is difficulty in getting lessons. You can’t just walk up to the counter and sign up. I wanted a lesson to improve my skills (I ski mostly blues, occassional black) for maybe half a day and couldn’t get anything in all the places I skied this year.

    • Iris,
      This may be a problem, but it’s clearly nothing to do with safety on the hill.

      You should know that it’s true at many areas (I’m a ski instructor with 12+ seasons experience) that you’ll be disappointed if you walk up and request a private lesson…the reason is that it’s not “free” for ski areas to have extra ski instructors hanging around just in case someone wants a lesson. The norm is that people are expected to make reservations (and pay) for private lessons ahead of time. Group lessons will sometimes afford a person the opportunity to get into a lesson at the last minute.

  8. You are SO correct! Too many skiers do not know basic skiing “rules of the road” and too many others are skiing WAY too fast for their ability. My eight year old granddaughter was also hit full on by someone flying down Cannon Mountain a few weeks ago. My husband and I both chased down the offender. He said he hit ice and could not stop. My husband was not so nice. As a 3 disciplined PSIA peep, I told him to take a lesson. The mountains are not doing enough to control this .

  9. Falling on a blue run may be safer than falling on a green run as the slope takes away some of the energy of the fall. That is, all other things being equal! And of course they are not. But, that is for a solo event not forced by the straight lining skier/boarder. The only defence I can think of is to find a pocket of the resort which others do not like. An open slope can be an invitation to the stray straight liner, but at least you know who is on the uncrowded slope (having pulled to one side to take a look). My golden rule is never ever ski weekends. Of course the new weekend starts Fridays through to Mondays so that only works partially.

  10. First off, we never ski on weekends. Watching the I70 cameras for the zoo that is making its way up the mountain. The crowds have just gotten so bad to even consider going out. I have been hit twice by snowboarders. Once with a snowboarder coming out the trees, hit me from behind and broke my shoulder which put me out of commission for the better part of the ski season. The second time was just recent where the snowboarder hit my skis getting off the lift causing me to fall and I would up with a broken ankle and ligament tear. Neither time did Ski Patrol do anything. I am now just getting out and skiing again. We have “worked” at both Copper in their Mountain Safety Patrol program and Vail’s Guest Services, but even with being out their in uniform and trying to get people to slow down is like spitting in the wind. We were always told to ” ski with your head on a swivel” . But basically, our way of skiing is when the crowds arrive, we head home.

  11. Really need more visible patrol ther need to hand out on the areas prone to fast skiers and riders. No excuse for them to be hanging out in the patrol shack. Tired of dodging as$.,%@#s

  12. The part about high speed lifts getting more people on the hill is only partially correct.

    On one hand, there is still only one chair every five or six seconds loading and unloading, so the high speed and slow speed lifts of equal capacity will deposit the same number of skiers per hour at the top of the hill.

    On the other hand, if volume is enough to fill every chair, there will be more people on chairs on a slow speed lift, therefore fewer on the slopes.

  13. Jim Stangl says:

    As far as the suggestions listed in the article, I strongly support 1) limiting ticket sales and days for the multi-resort passes, 2) regulating alcohol and other substance use, and 3) Zero tolerance on the part of resorts for unsafe behavior. Informing the resort about unsafe behavior is good, but I feel that resorts have an obligation to enforce some standards for safe skiing/riding. I know that from other skiing forums, some patrollers don’t want to be cast in the role of police, but then WHO is responsible??

    And I agree with others about avoiding certain areas on weekends. My “home” hill, Crystal Mountain in WA, has become a circus on weekends, especially since being purchased by the Alterra/Ikon folks. Took my teen daughter there yesterday, and with the typical PNW low visibility plus crowds of less-experienced beer-swilling skiers and boarders, we were happy to be out of there in one piece by early afternoon. It’s lost a lot of its charm for me.

  14. Vail Resorts used to have a workforce of “Yellow Jackets” that attempted to control the free for all coming down the arteries of the mountain. Those were a great help in controlling some of the insanity barreling down the mountain. This part of mountain ops was hard to be found this season at all at Park City. I love the idea of a small discount to watch a safety video clinic. This would be helpful for participants buying their first day lift ticket. Maybe a discount /incentive could also be built into their system to educate pass holders when they buy their season pass.

    It’s nuts out there trying to get down the mountain at the end of the day! The resorts just continue to spend millions to increase the uphill capacity. I don’t see this problem getting better anytime soon without some creative solutions.

  15. “And while I dont have the data, it seems like the situation is getting increasingly worse.”

    You really should have stopped there, because the rest is just speculation and reckless suggestions to inconvenience others. Fact is, almost all ski areas are not required to release injury and death totals and specifics to the public or government authorities, and the ski industry does not keep a collective database, for obvious reasons. So, how could this problem be solved, when even those basic facts aren’t known?
    An older man just died at Killington the other day. He was 72 or so. Collapsed from what seems to be cardiac failure, or maybe stroke. Eyewitness and friend’s accounts confirm this. This is the third older person to die at Killington this season for the same reason, according to my friend in patrol. So, should we ban anyone over a certain age from the slopes, since they, at least, are now the majority of fatalities at one large eastern mountain this season? Or maybe limit ticket sales to anyone over 65?

    As the warning says on your lift ticket and in various places on the mountain, skiing is inherently a dangerous sport, and you have to assume that risk every time you boot up. Be careful out there, but, when you start hearing footsteps, to use a term from another sport, maybe it’s time to consider the beach.

    Btw, I’m 70.

  16. EILEEN FISHKIN says:

    I was hit in the back full on by what felt like a Mack truck 3 1/2 weeks ago. A very large out-of-control skier who, I was told by fellow skiers fell further on, looked back at the carnage he had caused and went on. I am an 87 year old 128 lb. experienced skier. My ski buddies told me I was lifted off the slope and came down on my butt. My skis and poles were scattered everywhere. Luckily no bones broken, but the sciatica since then in excruciating, and is limiting my normal life to the point that just getting out of bed in the morning is a horror. Something must be done to limit sales, or insist that newer, younger skiers learn the rules.

  17. If we can ingrain in everyones mind ” on you right or on your left” so it becomes second nature, rather than “watch out or why did you get in my way!” Which I have heard. Things would be much better. That’s why I ski weekdays and not popular trails. It can get crowded on the slopes but education should be the best remedy, not figuring the cause. People today just are rude and only care about themselves. How many times do our readers announce when they are going to pass someone ? I do every time!

  18. Wendy,
    A lot of upset people for sure, and I get it. When I wrote a piece earlier this season regarding “stopping the fast and dangerous skiers”, I received more comments than I had ever gotten by 3-4x.

    Here’s one thing no one said – and you don’t need data to say it:
    Today, many ski areas groom ALL their green & blue runs, and at ski areas without much vertical, they groom all their black runs too.

    In a nutshell, that’s a big part of the problem: so many ski runs are now ski-able, at FAST speeds, without any significant skills. Think about it.

    Back in the day, few blue or black runs were groomed more often than once every week or two, if that often. Therefore, moguls (bumps) developed, the natural, real-life version of “speed bumps”. These bumps served two purposes: they gave proficient skiers fun challenges, and they scared the hell out of low-proficiency skiers…who would stay away.

    Now, so much is corduroy-groomed all the time. That equals more fast skiers everywhere. Maybe encourage ski areas to groom only HALF of each blue run, thereby leaving some small bumps.

    There are never too many skiers on a bumped-up trail from what I’ve seen both in VT, MA and UT.

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