Family Safety Report Card Fatal Accidents at U.S. Ski Resorts

Did You Know?
More people are hurt snowboarding than any other outdoor activity, accounting for a quarter of emergency room visits, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study in the journal Wilderness and Environmental Medicine.

Chairlift Deaths
Twelve chairlift deaths have occurred since 1973, the latest at Heavenly Valley Ski Resort where 19-year-old Ryan Moore died when he leaned forward on the Dipper Express chair because of a leg cramp and fell nearly 20 feet into rocks below. California law does not require ski resorts to use restraining bars on chairlifts and no resort mandates it.

View the California Labor Code for ski chair lifts. Visit:

Higher Speeds, More Jumps Leads To
Serious Injuries

Among skiers and snowboarders, higher speeds and more jumps and acrobatics are leading to a sharp rise in serious head and spinal injuries, according to a systematic review in the December 2007 issue of Injury Prevention. In one study, traumatic brain injury rose from 12 percent to 15 percent among skiers and from 1,000 to 5,200 per year among snowboarders from 1992 to 1997. In another study, spinal cord injury skyrocketed 130 percent among children and 407 percent among adolescents over the 21-year period from 1972-73 to 1993-94. The occurrence rate of both spinal cord and traumatic brain injury appears to be increasing worldwide because of higher speeds and more jumps and acrobatics leading to more falls and collisions, found Charles H. Tator, M.D., Ph.D., of Toronto Western Hospital, and his colleagues. (MedPage Today, December 4, 2007)
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Did You Know?
In recent years, Washoe Medical Center in Reno, which handles all the major injuries from Sierra ski resorts, has seen an average of 250 ski and snowboard trauma patients, according to the hospital’s chief trauma surgeon, Dr. Myron Gomez. (Chicago Sun-Times, March 26, 2006)

Patron Safety At California Snow Sport Facilities
An Analysis of the Current State of and Potential Opportunities for Safety Improvement Based on Observation, Stakeholder Perspective and Limited
Available Data

Download the SnowSport Safety Foundation’s white paper by visiting:

Watch Out For Tree Wells
According to Paul Collins, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine, a few things stand out in studies about incidents involving skiers and tree wells:

  • Most of them occur within ski area boundaries.
  • Many involve people skiing alone.
  • Most involve male skiers.
  • The snow conditions usually involve recent snowstorms.
  • They call could have been rescued has they been found quickly.
  • None were able to escape on their own.

Ski Resorts Violations
California state regulators fined Mammoth Mountain Ski Area $50,000 for several job safety violations related to the deaths of three ski patrol members on April 6, 2006. The patrolmen were trying to fence off a toxic volcanic vent when the snow collapsed and two of them fell in. A third ski patrol member died while trying to reach his colleagues, and seven more were seriously injured due to the carbon dioxide gas spewing from the vents. A report by the California division of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said the deaths could have been prevented had Mammoth Mountain officials posted enough signs warning about the vent and followed procedures on performing rescues. The report also cited Mammoth Mountain for neglecting to train employees on ways to gauge the danger.

A U.S. Forest Service investigation faulted the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort in Southern Nevada for inadequate avalanche prevention and rescue training in the death of a teenage snowboarder who was swept off a chairlift by a cascade of snow. Allen Brett Hutchison died January 9, 2005. The Forest Service report found that Mount Charleston Resort did not comply with an avalanche control plan, did not have rescue equipment in position and did not adequately prepare employees for search and rescue. According to the Forest Service National Avalanche Center in Ketchum, Idaho, the resort did not have the snow-pack and weather data-gathering and recording tools in place that would have made it more possible to recognize the extraordinary nature of the storm. The forest service closed off the area where the death occurred for five weeks until they were satisfied with ski area safety and avalanche control. The forest district ranger for Mount Charleston said the ski area has the responsibility to ensure safety.

Ski Resort Apologizes
In what was described as the highest expressions of corporate responsibility in a long time, the Summit at Snoqualmie in Washington State apologized to the family of 29-year-old David Pettigrew of Issaquah for statements that led the news media to mistakenly conclude that David was responsible for his own death by skiing alone in a roped-off area. Pettigrew was invited to join friends from the Alpental Ski Patrol on a sweep to check for anyone remaining on the slopes as skiing came to an end at Alpental on December 7, 2005. The Summit took out an ad, which stated that David was there at the invitation of the ski patrollers and admitted the area was not closed to David nor was he “out of bounds” as originally inferred. The family prepared a statement, which read: “The Pettigrew family greatly appreciates the acknowledgement by Snoqualmie Summit of the true facts surrounding the accidental death of David Pettigrew.”