Colorado Ski Areas Saw 11 Deaths Caused by Traumatic Crash in 2021/21

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transporting a patient can save lives, colorado
Ski patrol prepares to transport a patient to receive emergency treatment. PC Hugh Johnson

Colorado ski resorts are not required to report on deaths that occur within their boundaries publically. Or injuries, for that matter. And a proposed bill that was pushing for Colorado ski resorts to release figures on the number of deaths and injuries publicly was thrown out by committee three weeks ago.

However, The Colorado Sun has discovered that at least eleven people died at Colorado ski areas this season, by surveying county coroner’s offices. Ten of the sixteen counties surveyed reported no deaths, but six did.

Nine of the eleven traumatic deaths were caused by a tree strike. One other was by hitting a padded pole, and the other suffered trauma skiing a blue run at Vail that lead to his death.

Last season, 2019/20, 42 people died at ski resorts across the country, slightly higher than the ten-year average of 39. That was with the early shut down too.

The thrown out bill, Bill “SB21-184”, would have amended the “Ski Safety Act of 1979” by:

  • Requiring each ski area to adopt and publish, in printed form and on the ski area’s website, if any, a safety plan specifying the governance, management, and operational roles, responsibilities, and practices of the ski area to prevent accidents and reduce the frequency and severity of injuries.
  • Requiring ski areas with an elevation drop of 500 feet or more and at least one elevated lift to:
    • Collect and disseminate seasonal data on ski and snowboard accidents and deaths, including those occurring while boarding or exiting lifts;
    • Collect and make available, upon request, specific information about each accident, including where and when it occurred, the conditions at the time, the type of injuries and whether death occurred on-site or following medical transport, and specified non-private information about the injured person.

Supporters of the Bill included families of persons who have been killed or injured at Colorado’s ski resorts, safety advocates, and physicians. Vociferous opponents of the Bill were the resorts themselves.

Danilda Polanco, whose 18-year-old nephew Etthan Mañon died skiing at Echo Mountain in December, told the Colorado Sun:

“We are here to try to prevent other families from going through the horror we had to experience as a family.”

Pat Campbell, the president of Vail Resorts’ 37-resort mountain division, told the Colorado Sun that asking ski resorts to publish mandatory safety reports “is not workable” and would create an “unnecessary burden, confusion and distraction.”

“Publishing safety plans will not inform skiers about our work or create a safer ski area.”

After hearing forty testimonies, both for and against, in the three-hour hearing, Colorado Senate’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee voted 4-1 against Bill SB21-184.

Tammy Short, the Colorado Senator who sponsored the bill, has not given up yet. She plans to continue campaigning for more openess from ski areas, believing it would result in a safer experience for all.


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2 thoughts on “Colorado Ski Areas Saw 11 Deaths Caused by Traumatic Crash in 2021/21

  1. Lease holders of public lands should be transparent. Good reporting Colorado Sun.
    Digging through public information is real journalism

  2. Just curious: why do you always use the same picture of Patrollers at Smuggler’s Notch, VT when referring to Colorado ski resorts/patrol?

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