Skier and snowboarder code expands to include two important rules
The 60-year-old Your Responsibility Code for skiers and riders was expanded at the beginning of this ski season to include two new safety measures related to avoiding skiing and riding while impaired by alcohol or drugs as well as sharing contact information after a collision.
“Reckless skiing is really a challenge, and people watching their speed and being respectful of people on the mountain needs to be front and center,” said Dave Byrd, director of risk and regulatory affairs at the National Ski Areas Association based in Lakewood. “It continues to be the focus of ski patrol and mountain operations at ski area, and it’s going to be a challenge and remain with us moving forward.”
With the growing popularity of skiing and snowboarding reaching a record level of almost 60.7 million visits during the 2021-22 ski season, injuries and collisions continue at resorts across the nation, Byrd said.
Steamboat Springs resident Jill Pesceone reported one such serious injury in a letter to the editor to the Steamboat Pilot & Today last week. She wrote that her husband was injured by a “hit-and-run from behind by an out-of-control snowboarder” that led to her husband having four surgeries. He is predicted to need 18 months of rehabilitation.
Byrd said the National Ski Areas Association does not track accidents and collisions but does track fatalities and catastrophic injuries, such as spinal cord damage, that occur within ski area boundaries within normal operating hours and are not related to pre-existing medical conditions or employees working.
During the 2021-22 season, 57 fatal incidents and 54 catastrophic injuries were reported among 473 ski resorts across 36 U.S. states. Those fatalities have been gradually increasing from 27 during the 2012-13 season to 48 during the 2020-21 season, according to National Ski Areas Association statistics.
“Most of these fatal incidents involved male skiers between the ages of 21 and 30 on more difficult, or intermediate, terrain. Collisions with objects – specifically with trees – continue to be the primary cause of skier/snowboarder fatalities,” the association reported in October.
Of the fatalities last ski season, 95% were males, and among the catastrophic incidents, 72% were males. The catastrophic injuries occurred across all difficulty levels of terrain including freestyle.
The Skier Responsibility Code that began in 1962, now called Your Responsibility Code, was expanded in the fall from seven to 10 points. One of the seven original measures was split into two in the update. Newly added measures nine and 10 now include: “Do not use lifts or terrain when impaired by alcohol or drugs,” and “If you are involved in a collision or incident, share your contact information with each other and a ski area employee.”
Byrd said many states already have laws about not skiing or riding while impaired by alcohol or drugs and not leaving the scene of an accident on the slopes.
“A number of states, including Colorado, and many counties, include the provision to stay at the scene and exchange information in both state and county law,” Byrd said.
The National Ski Areas Association added the new points in Your Responsibility Code based on the volume of incidents described by guests, ski patrollers, ski patrol directors and insurance companies, Byrd said.
The consequences for violations of the code are “up to each individual mountain,” Byrd said.
“They can give warnings, suspend a season pass for a week or longer, or entirely pull the pass for the remainder of the season, depending on how egregious the violation may be,” Byrd said.
The National Ski Areas Association and ski resorts promote National Safety Awareness Month each January to educate skiers and snowboarders about using common sense on the slopes. The association promotes safety programs such as Lids on Kids, which reports overall helmet use on the slopes has grown from 25% in the 2002-03 season to 90% during 2021-22.
The association’s education program Ride Another Day honors 5-year-old Elise Johnson who was learning to ski with her mom in 2010 when an out-of-control snowboarder struck the pair. The snowboarder and Elise died, and mom Kelli Johnson suffered a traumatic brain injury and was in a coma for several weeks. Ride Another Day, with information found at NSAA.org/RideAnotherDay, promotes three actions to help everyone stay safe: be ready, stay alert and plan ahead.
Ride Another Day teaches skiers and riders to maintain control regardless of conditions and be ready to slow down or avoid objects or other people at any time. Stay alert to what is going on around you, especially other skiers and riders nearby and changing conditions. Plan ahead by easing up at blind spots, checking uphill when merging onto trails and giving other skiers plenty of room when passing.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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