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Spring Skiing and End-of-Season Collisions

By Burg Simpson
April 12, 2016
4 min read

As we move into late spring and are feeling grateful for another successful ski season, we should take time not only to reflect on the great snow and fun times Colorado skiers experienced this past year, but we should also reflect on some of the dangers that face skiers on the slopes in an effort to understand, learn and perhaps prevent future tragedies.

On a sunny morning this past March, William Scott Elligott, 49 and his 20-year old daughter enjoyed their first time together at the Telluride Ski Resort. Unfortunately, it would also be the last. Elligott lost control and tumbled into a wooded area around 11 am. Ski patrollers found Elligott’s body shortly after his daughter reported him missing, but he had no pulse and was declared dead at the scene.

Another deadly, end-of-the-season ski accident occurred the same week at Copper Mountain Resort. Nathan Rom, 19 of Arlington Virginia lost control while skiing and hit a tree. Despite wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, the teenager died at the Copper Mountain Clinic from the injuries sustained in the crash.

And yet another man died at Breckenridge Ski Resort after colliding with another skier on April 4 of this year.

Ski deaths are tragic and often horrific considering the speed at which most people are going at the time of impact. Despite the risk of death inherent in skiing, the overall number of deaths is low considering the number of people who ski at Colorado resorts each season. An article from the Denver Post in 2013 said that 11 million skiers visited Colorado slopes in 2013 resulting in 19 deaths, which was the deadliest ski season on record.

While there does not appear to be any serious study of end-of-season trends, some issues that may be a factor in increased injuries and deaths are:

  • Grooming close to the tree line, putting more skiers in closer proximity to trees.
  • More people enjoying spring skiing, leading to crowded ski lanes and putting more skiers closer to each other and to the edges of the runs.
  • Inconsistent snow conditions that can lead to loss of control.

While helmets are certainly a necessary accessory for any skier, a helmet’s effectiveness at protecting a skier who hits his or her head diminishes as the speed increases. Deceleration of the brain is the critical issue here. And helmets do not protect against other ski injuries, such as the blunt force trauma to the chest that killed another man in February when he hit a wooden post at the Beaver Creek Resort near Vail, Colorado.

The best defense to avoiding injuries while on the slopes at any time of the year? Know your abilities, ski within your abilities, and watch out carefully for other skiers and trees. In the spring season, skiers and riders must be vigilant when assessing the inconsistent snow conditions to avoid losing control.

If you or a loved one has sustained an injury from a skiing accident in Colorado, you should speak to a Colorado personal injury attorney who is knowledgeable about ski accidents. The law provides strong protections to ski resorts, but know that every case is different and compensation may be available depending on the circumstances. Further, other reckless skiers are not immune from suit and should be responsible for causing injuries or death.

At Burg Simpson, we represent clients in personal injury claims involving ski accidents against both ski resorts when the law allows and against other responsible skiers. Our experienced and compassionate team will work with you to ensure the best possible outcome. Contact our offices today for a free case evaluation.

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