Skiing or Snowboarding Accident: What You Need to Know

Skies at a Colorado Resort

Skiing and snowboarding accidents can often be frightening and shocking. And in the moments following, you may not know what to do. Because of the stressful nature of a skiing accident, it’s important to know the facts, and to know what to do if you are involved in a collision.

Ski Accident Statistics

During the 2019-2020 season, 51 million total skiers and snowboarders hit the slopes according to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). The NSAA also reports that there were 29 catastrophic injuries and 42 fatalities in the United States during the 2019-2020 winter ski season. This translates to a fatality rate of less than one death per 1 million skier visits (SV), or 0.81 fatalities per 1 million sv.

In Colorado, the ordinary rate of ski accidents requiring at least minimal care is about 2.5 per 1,000 skier visits. Serious injuries requiring at least an emergency room visit are about 1 per 1,000sv and critical care and deaths are about .25/1,000sv. So on a typical day at Telluride, for example, if there are a total of 1,000 guests ski patrol can expect to record 2-3 accidents.

While catastrophic or fatal injuries are uncommon, skiing accidents or collisions are not. And even though lower ability and less experienced skiers are injured about 4x the rate of advanced recreational skiers and snowboarders, avid skiers and boarders are not free from the inherent dangers of the sport. 

Colorado Ski Law

Under the Colorado Ski Safety Act, established in 1979 by the Colorado state legislature, every skier and snowboarder who hits the slopes in Colorado assumes the risk of any injury resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing. The law also states each skier has its own legal responsibilities, including knowing the range of his or her own ability and to ski within the limits of such ability. In addition, each skier has the duty to maintain control of his speed and course at all times when skiing and to maintain a proper lookout to be able to avoid other skiers and objects.

Except when extraordinary circumstances are involved, a suit for a Colorado ski accident must be filed within two years of the accident. However, we strongly encourage victims of a ski accident to act promptly because many ski area employees are seasonal and are not U.S. citizens. The earlier our ski injury lawyers can secure all the relevant evidence and testimony, the stronger your case becomes.

What is a ski collision case?

Skiing is not a contact sport and being blindsided by another skier or snowboarder is not an inherent risk under either Colorado or Utah law. Colorado law presumes that the uphill skier or boarder is at fault in a skiing accident, because the overtaking skier has the primary duty to avoid the skier below. In Utah, skiers are required to exercise “reasonable care” to avoid collisions. Usually, this also means the uphill skier must yield to skiers below.

Thus, one of the key issues in any skier/skier case is who was the uphill or overtaking skier. The nature of the injury often gives substantial clues as to how the ski accident occurred, the speed at which the skiers were skiing, and the relative angles to each other.

All skiers are under a general duty to ski cautiously, within their ability and to maintain control and a proper lookout. If a skier fails to ski in control or to maintain a lookout, the skier is negligent and responsible for the injuries and damages that result from the collision

What should I do if i was injured in a skiing accident?

Even though most take their duties seriously, reckless and negligent behavior of other skiers and snowboarders is still very common and a major cause of accidents on the mountain. Use the following steps as a guide on what to do after a skiing or snowboarding collision, and contact us if you or anyone you know need advisement on the proper steps to take following an accident.

1. Alert Approaching Skiers

Ask someone to plant skis in an X uphill of the collision. This is a widely recognized signal both to uphill skiers and snowboarders and to patrol that there is an injured skier below.

2. Check for Injuries and Call Ski Patrol

If you think you may be injured, call ski patrol. It is better to have help and not need it than try to ski or ride down the mountain and potentially worsen any injuries. See below for a list of emergency numbers for Colorado ski resorts.

Some resorts also offer apps that will allow you to contact ski patrol at the click of a button. For Vail Resort mountains (Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte), use the EpicMix app. There is a ski patrol red cross logo in the upper right corner where you can select the resort where you are skiing or riding. The Aspen Snowmass app (Aspen, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass) also has a feature that allows you to click on the mountain where you are skiing or riding and place an emergency call immediately.

3. Exchange Information with the Other Party

The Ski Safety Act requires skiers and snowboarders involved in a collision to exchange information. Leaving the scene of a collision is a criminal offense.

4. Document and Gather Evidence

If you can, take photos of the area of the collision. Or have a friend you are skiing with do it for you.

5. Get witness information

Ski patrol typically will not get witness contact information or statements. If someone stops to help or says they saw the collision, thank them and take their name and phone number.

6. Call an Attorney with Experience in Skier Collision Cases

The law firm of Chalat Hatten & Banker handles more skier collision cases than any plaintiff’s firm in the country. Experience matters, and we can help. Call our ski and snowboard accident attorneys at (303) 861-1042 for a 100% free case evaluation.

Emergency Numbers for Colorado Ski Resorts

Arapahoe Basin: 911

Aspen Highlands: 970-544-3052

Aspen Mountain: 970-920-0723

Beaver Creek: 970-754-6911

Breckenridge: 970-496-7911

Buttermilk: 970-920-0969

Copper Mountain: 970-968-3311

Crested Butte: 970-349-2236

Echo Mountain: 720-899-2100

Eldora: 303-258-8102

Granby Ranch: 970-887-5170

Hesperus: 911

Howelsen Hill: 911

Keystone: 970-496-6911

Loveland: 303-571-5580, ext. 101 (911 preferred)

Monarch: 719-530-5111

Powderhorn: 970-268-5355

Purgatory: 970-385-2178

Ski Cooper: No cell service

Snowmass: 970-923-0530

Steamboat: 970-871-5911

Sunlight: 911 preferred

Telluride: 970-728-7585 or 911

Vail: 970-754-1911

Winter Park/Mary Jane: 970-726-1480

Wolf Creek: 970-264-5639