The experts at Robson Forensic investigate a variety of winter sports incidents to understand how they occurred. In this article, winter sports expert, Raul Guisado discusses sledding and snow tubing and the responsibilities for both participants and area operators to promote safety on the slopes.
SNOW TUBING & SLEDDING SAFETY
According to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission 2014 study, there were over 52,000 sledding, snow tubing, and tobogganing-related injuries treated at hospital emergency rooms, doctors’ offices and clinics in the United States that year. In many incidents that I have investigated, injury would have been prevented if the operators and/or participants involved had followed a few simple safety guidelines.
In this article, I discuss the different types of sledding and snow tubing venues and provide some tips for avoiding injuries at those areas.
TYPES OF SLEDDING AND SNOW TUBING AREAS
Just as skiing and snowboarding can be enjoyed in a variety of ways within ski resorts (e.g. groomed runs, off-piste, terrain parks) or outside of ski resorts (e.g. Mountain Wilderness Areas, National Forests, State Sno-Parks), sledding and snow tubing can be experienced at areas in which sliding activities are managed and controlled or at areas in which they are not.
Managed and controlled sledding and snow tubing experiences can be found at many ski resorts in the U.S. as well as other winter recreation locations that have a dedicated area for sliding activities. A managed and controlled sledding and snow tubing experience includes:
- A marked, designated, and obstacle free area that has been designed and developed for sledding/snow tubing
- A machine groomed surface
- Staff supervision of sliding activities
In addition, many areas that offer a managed and controlled sledding/snow tubing experience also offer:
- Monitored lanes separated by snow berms
- An uphill lift/transport system (e.g. a rope tow or magic carpet)
- Fencing and signage
- Use of a sliding device
Operations offering a managed and controlled sledding and snow tubing experience generally charge participants a fee for sliding activities.
In contrast, numerous multi-use recreation areas in the U.S. (e.g. National Parks, State Parks, County Parks) offer visitors an uncontrolled, unmarked, and unsupervised sliding experience on ungroomed snow. Such areas tend to be maintained as predominantly natural winter recreation environments without the features commonly found at managed and controlled operations. Such areas normally post “use at your own risk” signage and do not typically charge a fee for winter sliding activities, but may charge for vehicle parking – common for areas that remove snow from visitor parking lots and/or maintain heated restrooms.
SLEDDING AND SNOW TUBING RISKS
Sledding and snow tubing are winter snow sports with inherent dangers. Participants have a responsibility to exercise reasonable care for their own safety and recreation providers must take reasonable precautions to protect visitors.
Common causes of injury:
- Colliding with a fixed object
- Losing control on ice
- Getting air off of a jump
SLEDDING AND SNOW TUBING SAFETY TIPS/GUIDELINES
- Designated sledding and snow tubing areas must be wide-open and free of obstacles.
- Hills must be of a moderate slope with a long and flat run-out area.
- Sledding/tubing in a seated and feet first position provides optimal steering and bail-out ability.
- High quality and durable sledding and snow tubing devices should be used.
- Avoid sliding activities on bumpy slopes or off of jumps.
- Sledding/tubing should be done on snow rather than ice.
- Sliding activities should be limited to hills with adequate snow coverage.
- Children should be closely supervised by an adult at all times.
- Wearing a helmet while sledding/tubing can greatly reduce brain injuries.
- Proper winter apparel for anticipated weather conditions should be worn.
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 recreation areas. 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.
For more information visit our Winter Sports practice page.
Winter Sports Expert & USSA Alpine-Level 500 Coach
Raul is a winter sports expert – specializing in skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and snow tubing. He is a former U.S. Ski Team World Cup and Olympic coach and has extensive experience analyzing safety protocol, snow conditions, terrain, participant behavior, fall lines, trail design, human performance, speed control, direction changes, equipment, operational best practices, risk analysis/management, and the standard of care related to alpine snow sports (skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and snow tubing). 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). He is also a member of the National Ski Patrol and the Professional Ski Instructors of America-American Association of Snowboard,and has official voting status in the ASTM International Committee on Snow Skiing.