In this article, ski and snowboard forensic expert Raul Guisado discusses common causes of collisions between skiers and snowboarders and provides tips for avoiding collisions at ski areas.
SKIER AND SNOWBOARDER COLLISIONS
Equipment advances, signage, and the “Responsibility Code”, developed by the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), have all aided in improving skier and snowboarder safety at ski areas.
NSAA Responsibility Code
- Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.
- People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.
- You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above.
- Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others.
- Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
- Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.
- Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.
Despite safety advances, many injuries from collisions occur on the mountains every year. The winter sports experts at Robson Forensic are frequently retained to investigate these incidents when the injuries are severe. In this article we address the behavioral aspects most frequently at issue in skier and snowboarder collisions.
Speed Control - One common cause of collisions between skiers and snowboarders is the result of one or both individuals traveling too fast for their abilities. Ski areas clearly mark the difficulty rating for each trail since not all runs can usually be seen from the bottom of the mountain and/or it may be difficult to appreciate how steep or narrow a trail is from far away.
All skiers and snowboarders should develop their speed control, turning, and stopping skills on easier runs before venturing into more challenging areas. Skiing and snowboarding are skill sports and a gradual progression is necessary in order to responsibly maintain control and avoid collisions.
Observing Signs - Another common cause of collisions between individuals at ski areas is the failure by one or both parties to alter speed and behavior in slow zones, congested areas, while on beginner runs, or in sections where trails merge or intersect. Ski areas generally post signs prior to these zones as a safety measure - to emphasize the need for awareness and controlled skiing and snowboarding. Disregarding warnings or failing to exercise restraint through these sections of the mountain creates a dangerous condition and increases the risk of collision.
Safe Passing - Getting too close to another person while passing is also a cause of collisions between skiers and snowboarders. As a result, ski areas make an effort to educate skiers and snowboarders of the Responsibility Code since often times, the individual being passed is unaware that they are being overtaken. It is the responsibility of the uphill skier to exercise reasonable care and only pass when there is ample space to do so and at a rate of speed that provides the ability to stop or otherwise safely react to any movements made by the skier or snowboarder they are passing.
Tips for Avoiding Skier and Snowboarder Collisions
- Ski and snowboard within abilities and hone speed control, turning, and stopping skills on wide-open and relatively flat terrain before venturing into more challenging areas.
- Reduce speed in slow zones, beginner areas, on crowded runs, and where trails merge or intersect.
- Give others ample room when passing, share the slopes, and show respect for fellow skiers and snowboarders.
- Stop on the sides of a run so as not to obstruct the trail and in areas visible to approaching skiers and snowboarders.
- Reduce speed when approaching blind terrain.
- Look uphill and yield to others when starting downhill or merging into a trail.
- Educate youth on the responsibility code and the importance of terrain park etiquette and respect for other park users.
- Ski or snowboard behind young children to protect them from collisions.
- If a run is crowded, stop at the side of the trail and wait for a break between skiers and snowboarders before continuing.
- Minimize distractions such as cell phone usage and listening to music while skiing and snowboarding.
Ski Area Safety Measures for Reducing Skier and Snowboarder Collisions
- Post proper signage prior to known congested areas.
- Alert skiers and snowboarders about areas where trails merge or intersect.
- Use fencing or closures when necessary to reduce skier and snowboarder speed prior to merging or intersecting another trail.
- Ensure that terrain park boundaries are well defined and that adequate fencing and closures are in place.
- Mark trails with clearly visible trail difficulty rating signs.
WINTER SPORTS INVESTIGATIONS
Our experts are often retained to investigate severe injuries and/or assess risks at ski and snowboard areas and other winter sports parks. The scope of our investigations will typically include an analysis of how the injury happened and the condition of the equipment and environment in which it occurred. In addition, our winter sports experts provide proactive risk assessment consultation to mountain resorts in an effort to prevent incidents.
For more information visit our Winter Sports practice page.
Winter Sports Expert & USSA Alpine-Level 500 Coach
Raul is an expert in the sports of skiing and snowboarding. He is a former U.S. Ski Team World Cup and Olympic coach and has extensive experience analyzing ski and snowboard terrain and safety protocol. Raul has coached and prepared athletes who competed in the 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014 Winter Olympic Games, and has earned the highest possible ski coaching certification level from the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (Alpine-Level 500).