This article explains the marking and guarding of two types of potentially hazardous obstacles found at ski and snowboard areas.
Although ski and snowboard areas have taken many steps to improve safety over the years, natural and man-made obstacles are still abundant on and around the slopes. In my experience, poorly marked and unprotected hazardous obstacles exist at virtually every venue, and injuries resulting from collisions with these hazards are a regular occurrence. In many of the incidents I have investigated, the struck obstacles were not readily visible from an uphill position, and injuries could have been prevented through the use of positive guidance and/or protective guards.
In this article, I discuss two types of obstacles that can be found at any ski and snowboard area and some of the precautions that area operators should take in marking and/or guarding obstacles in an effort to provide a safer environment for their guests.
Natural Obstacles– Bare spots, forest growth, rocks, stumps, streambeds, cliffs, trees and other natural objects.
Serious injury can occur when skiers and snowboarders encounter such hazards and area operators should strive to ensure that natural obstacles are properly marked when difficult to see and even guarded in some cases (e.g. a large tree or boulder located in the middle of a narrow groomed run or near the landing area of a terrain park jump).
Man-Made Obstacles– Chairlift towers, signs, posts, hydrants, water pipes, hoses, snow making machines, fences, enclosures, wires, water reservoirs, bridges, or other artificial structures and their components.
Area operators must take safety into consideration before placing any artificial obstacle within their boundaries and ensure that these obstacles are obstacles are visible and properly guarded if necessary.
Ski and Snowboard Area Obstacle Precautions
Our experts are often retained to investigate severe injuries 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.