In-depth series on skier deaths in Colorado

Discussion in 'General Skiing' started by SBrown, Apr 12, 2017.

  1. Tricia

    Tricia Trekchick Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    That's kind of why I posted my thoughts (or lack thereof) earlier. Its Part one in a series but this first part isn't really going anywhere. Maybe the follow ups will tie something together :huh:
     
  2. Mendieta

    Mendieta Master of Snowplow Skier

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    That! (and @KingGrump 's comment, second in the thread, which I failed to insert here)

    The paradox in skiing, is that the easiest thing to do is also the most dangerous: catching too much speed in a smooth run.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2017
  3. SBrown

    SBrown seg Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    Parts 2 and 3 are up now.

    http://www.summitdaily.com/news/skierdeaths/

    This kind of reminds me of the "expose" by Karen Crummy on ski area liability. Which isn't exactly a compliment. But I do understand the point, which is that deaths are bad for ski areas, therefore many feel that they aren't as forthcoming as they could or should be about them. I can agree with that, a little bit. But the comments of one of the families, the one from MA, sort of explain why resorts aren't more open: "They started calling lawyers as they pondered a lawsuit over there being a hidden obstacle that led to Jay’s death." Uh, really? Guy hit a tree in an outdoors environment. If every surviving family was thinking about suing over "hidden obstacles" on a mountain .... well, you know where that would go. So the resorts clam up.

    The bit about autopsies (or lack thereof) ... I'm still processing that.Not sure what I think.

    The compilation of deaths on the map is kind of interesting, when you click on them all in a row, but there was no analysis. What would really be compelling is information on the conditions of the day; that crappy 11/12 season is a spike in a relatively consistent graph. It also seems like there are quite a few out-of-staters, and I would love to see that analyzed. ie, if 40 percent of deaths were to tourists, but only 20 percent of people on the hill on a day are from out of state. (I just made up those numbers.) Many places couldn't tell you the latter, but these days many can, with all the information they compile.

    It's probably hard for me to judge this series fairly, because I already knew most of this stuff so it seems redundant. And all of this ski area liability stuff, it needs to be balanced with the good that they do. The lives that they save, the avalanches they prevent, etc. I've never been in the back offices, but I've seen quite a bit on the front lines, and I've never seen any inkling that those men and women aren't fully devoted to keeping guests safe. I guess this is why I'm a little nonplussed about a lack of transparency after the fact ... all I know is that when you're out there and still alive, they do their damndest to keep you that way. That's what really counts.
     
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  4. SBrown

    SBrown seg Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    I think at least some of them must have been counted, because I saw this one from 2008:

    "Jennifer Ash, 28, of Indianapolis, Ind., died March 23, 2008, eight days after she was injured in a snowboarding accident at Keystone Resort.She fell on Ina's Way, a beginner run, and originally, Ash and her friends believed she had minor injuries. But the hospital discovered Ash had suffered an indirect trauma that damaged arteries in her spine and eventually caused a fatal stroke. Ash was a pharmacist from Indianapolis."

    http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/coroner-snowboarder-s-fall-on-butt-led-to-fatal-stroke

    I can see how they would be underreported or undercounted, though. Things must slip through the cracks, particularly if the death is months later or more. But you have to draw the line somewhere ... I mean, I'm thinking of your case and those like it. (Not to be morbid. But you're a nurse, so...) If you are in a car accident next month and reinjure your liver and don't make it, is that a skier death? The initial injury was a ski injury, and it's what made your liver vulnerable, ie the car accident on its own wouldn't have done you in, just the combination.
     
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  5. Doug Briggs

    Doug Briggs aka 'Jerry' Industry Insider

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    Without reading every word of the list of those that died, when I read about deaths in the paper and the victim died when they hit a tree, my perception is that they left the trail at speed and hit a tree; they were not tree skiing. I don't recall an instance where the report was: s/he was skiing in the trees and died from impact with a tree.

    I agree with the majority of serious responses here that skiing is inherently dangerous and we should not be surprised that people die doing it. Education could go a long way to help reduce the serious injuries that occur. Some think this is Disneyland where all the risks are mitigated. Nothing could be further from reality. Signs like they have at backcountry gates at points of entry to the ski area would certainly bring people's attention to the seriousness of the situation. It would also turn people away. Lessons are supposed to help educate skiers and riders, yet many don't bother with lessons. Perhaps waivers that require explicit acknowledgement of the risk rather than the implied acceptance of if with the tiny print on the back of a ticket would help.

    Regarding some folks questioning where the Daily was intending to go with this series: ,y first take on the series is that the Summit Daily is trying to move up the journalistic ladder by adding more in-depth reporting. This series discusses concerns that affect all of us in Summit County: death from sport, how coroners' policies and rules differ from county to county, the impact of skier deaths on the economy and ski area/industry transparency.

    The Daily has been doing X-part series on a wide range of things as of late; housing has been in the fore for a while. Sometimes they hit the mark, sometimes they miss. This one, as people point out, is a bit nebulous in what they are trying to achieve. One interesting thing that comes out in the 2nd article is the wide variance in how the coroners address on-mountain traumatic deaths. #130 of course is a total mystery; we don't even know who the deceased was.That lack of transparency causes me the most concern of any issue raised so by the series.
     
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  6. Monique

    Monique bounceswoosh Skier

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    I can certainly imagine cases where a low-speed impact with a tree could still cause just the wrong head injury or internal injuries. But I also can't remember a report of someone dying that way. Agree with @Karen_skier2.0 that fatality is only one piece of the puzzle.
     
  7. Monique

    Monique bounceswoosh Skier

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    From page 2:

    This implies he was actually skiing in bumps or trees. I've never seen Boneyard groomed. But is it possible it's actually a tree well death? That's something that feels much more real to me, as I seek out powder stashes and often turn fairly closely around trees.

    “It’s haunted me, because I was 100 feet from him and I could have hiked back up,” she said. “These are the questions as friends that we just don’t understand. He was such a good skier, and I’ve seen the guy get out of some hairy situations, so can’t imagine him hitting a tree. It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

    Yeah, I wonder why the search didn't go through the night. They had a meet-up plan. Was Sean someone who was likely to skip out? How worried would I be if my friend didn't show up? I've lapped that particular route so often, and I'm not sure I would have worried, either. It's not a challenge for an experienced skier. Still - "I can't imagine him hitting a tree" is such a weird statement to me. Ski tips get caught on roots. Skiers need to abruptly change course to avoid people, especially on a thoroughfare like Boneyard. I can imagine any skier hitting a tree, in the right circumstance.

    I do agree that the question of whether a friend died immediately, or whether they suffocated, would haunt me. But I'm not sure that it is reasonable to expect a tax-funded autopsy to find out.

    On to page 3.

    OMG the focus on Breck is driving me nuts. It's helpful to be so familiar with the runs, though. I'm confused about the reference to Alpine Alley. Was he really skiing a groomer all the way down (maybe got out of control and skied into a tree on the side), or was he in the trees on B50? Saying you're skiing Alpine Alley is like saying you're skiing that cat track at A Basin that takes you to Slalom Slope. That's his favorite run? I don't get it.

    The thing is, it's both. I've been at the top of some of the Breck peaks in a white out. It's not K2, of course, but it's not a groomed and manicured experience. Heck, I've been on the groomed blue flat on the way to the Peak 9 restaurant, and got the worst vertigo of my life when a squall blew through. Conditions haven't been mentioned for any of these highlighted incidents.

    When I had a collision with another skier, absolutely everyone advised me not to contact him after the fact to express any kind of well-wishes. Even though it was clearly a no-fault (or maybe both-fault) situation, the fear was of litigation. I can easily imagine that resorts have the same concerns and get the same advice, which may help explain why they don't reach out as much as the family may prefer.
     
  8. Don in Morrison

    Don in Morrison Morrison Claystone Skier

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    I'm sitting here drawing a mental picture of a truly Disneyfied ski experience. Orange safety fences bordering all runs, 15 feet away from the trees. Glades cleared of all trees or closed altogether. Outhouse, et al, get flattened every day. "Slow" signs every 100 yards on the hill, manned by ski patrol, like cops behind billboards, waiting to chase down speeders and pull their passes. Snowmaking runs every night that it doesn't snow, to keep all the buried rocks buried. $300 lift tickets to cover the cost of all this.

    Everybody who wants to ski in skitopia, raise your hand! :duck:
     
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  9. Monique

    Monique bounceswoosh Skier

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    I'm sure a lot of parents would like that for their kids!
     
  10. Don in Morrison

    Don in Morrison Morrison Claystone Skier

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    To be honest, Granby Ranch does groom almost everything, and they have signage on the two most popular runs, encouraging people to slow down, but they also have several glades and other places for the adventurous to ski among the trees. I've seen a lot of kids power wedging down the black runs there. They can keep the costs down by not doing all the other stuff in my musings above.

    It's a great place to learn to ski, but if you want to experience more challenging terrain, ya gotta go someplace else. They have a narrower target market compared to other places. Their model works for them, but it wouldn't work most everywhere else. Imagine how the MJ clientele would change if they always knocked down all the bumps every night.
     
  11. SBrown

    SBrown seg Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    Overall, I understand why you're feeling that, but 5 of the 13 deaths this season have been at Breck. I think that probably skews a bit of the focus.
     
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  12. Monique

    Monique bounceswoosh Skier

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    I know, I know. But they're attacking my baby!
     
  13. CalG

    CalG Booting up Skier

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    This thread would be a no start in the Alps...

    Just a consideration.
     
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  14. Monique

    Monique bounceswoosh Skier

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    What do you mean?
     
  15. CalG

    CalG Booting up Skier

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    Self responsibility

    and a less litigious society.

    The mountain and geographic area would be identified in public reports, but the lift service and "corporate owner" would not be mentioned.

    i.e. "four perish in avalanche on Timbuktu Glacier, three sent to area hospitals, all were experienced mountaineers and skiers".

    Get the difference? No lawyers. no deep pockets, be there at your own peril. No buttercups!
     
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  16. SBrown

    SBrown seg Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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  17. Monique

    Monique bounceswoosh Skier

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    On the other hand - isn't there less of a tendency for avy mitigated steep, ungroomed terrain? I like that stuff.
     
  18. SBrown

    SBrown seg Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    I think that's the same hand, not the other one.
     
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  19. KingGrump

    KingGrump Most Interesting Man In The World Skier

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  20. Monique

    Monique bounceswoosh Skier

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    Sure. I guess I meant "the upside of US skiing, on the other hand ..."
     
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