Politics

Some Colorado lawmakers want ski resorts to report injuries and deaths

Etthan Mañon was ready to tackle the main track on Echo Mountain after skiing several laps on the beginner’s hill.

The 18-year-old was with a group of family members in a town in the Dominican Republic for Christmas and skiing for the first time in his life.

“He was doing a great job. Controlling turns and stopping. He was eager to try Main Hill. His uncle, Scott Streep, a longtime Colorado skater who said he brought his nephew and other family members to Echo – the closest resort to Denver, miles away” A Few Evergreen – “I didn’t know how serious it was.” It was a good place for beginners.

“I didn’t know,” said Strip.

Manion struggled to stop. He broke through a fence at the bottom of the run and flew into thick trees. It took over 45 minutes for the ski patrol to get her out of the woods. In an ambulance at the base of the 60-acre ski area, paramedics treated Manion for a severe injury to his arm. More than an hour after the accident, Streep sat with his nephew in the ambulance as it navigated a snowy slow road en route to a trauma center in the Denver metro area.

After 15 minutes, the medic in the back asked the driver to stop and help. Manion, who was once dreaming Open a restaurant with robotic serversHe died in the back of the ambulance on Christmas Eve.

His family, including his mother and grandmother, who are both doctors, have a lot of questions. Why was the helicopter not called as they asked? Can an emergency helicopter land on Mount Echo? How were the patrolmen who treated Manion with a broken arm trained? Did they check for other injuries? Why didn’t the paramedic report include any information shared by Echo Mountain Patrol? How many other skaters were injured or killed in Echo?

“Is there a way for other families not to go through something like this?” Daniela Streep, Manon’s aunt, said. “It’s very difficult to learn more information about the dangers of skiing.”

Ethan Manion, 18, died after a crash in Mount Iko. (Provided by Scott Stripe)

Resorts do not easily share accident details. If the family hadn’t spoken publicly, Manon’s death might have gone unnoticed, like many ski resort deaths. That may change with legislation introduced at Colorado State Building last week that will require resorts to share safety strategies as well as statistics revealing injuries and deaths.

Senate Bill 184, “Ski Area Safety Plans and Accident Reporting, “It will also require resorts to publish safety plans that define“ roles, responsibilities, and practices in the ski area ”to minimize accidents. The main supporters of the legislation are Democratic Senators Tammy Story of Knever and Jesse Danielson of Wheat Ridge.

The bill, which does not yet have a sponsor at Colorado House, requires all Colorado resorts to issue seasonal reports of accidents and deaths. Reports should include details about where and when the accident occurred, the circumstances at that time, the nature of the injuries caused and other “non-private” information about the injured skater. The bill also requires resorts to report injuries that occur when a skier loads or unloads from an elevator. (These injuries do not need to be reported to the Colorado Tramway Passenger Safety Board, which only tracks injuries inflicted while riding in a chair, not loading or unloading.)

Read more outdoor stories from The Colorado Sun.

At the start of the 2020-21 ski season, a group calling themselves Safe Slopes Colorado released the Department of Public Health and Environment statistics showing that up to 55 skiers and snowboarders arrive at emergency rooms in highland rural areas every day.

Reports, which include details of entry to the trauma center and ambulance transfers from ski areas in 2018, 2019 and 2020, showed that the number of skiers and snowboarders visiting emergency rooms in ski cities grew by more than 80% from 2016 to 2015. 2019. One of the reports showed 4,151 skiers. They have rushed from the resorts in ambulances for the past three ski seasons which arrive about 10 per day. Many injuries are serious, with CDPHE statistics showing that more than a third of the 1,426 skiers admitted to Colorado’s trauma centers in the 2017-18 ski season required immediate surgery.

Flight for Life in Colorado chief paramedic who operates transport helicopters from five bases, including one in Summit County, said helicopters rush to injured skiers to trauma centers “at least once a day.” .

“From the second week in December to the second week in April,” Miller said, “Every day someone suffers a life-changing injury – or worse – at a Colorado ski resort.”

Details of the injuries were not disclosed by the ski resorts. Many deaths go unreported either. The National Association of Ski Areas reports average 45 ‘catastrophic casualties’ In all ski areas in the country every season. These resorts record approximately 55 to 60 million visits annually, so the industry reports less than one major injury per million skier visits. (The association defines catastrophic injuries as “major nerve trauma, major head injuries, and spinal cord injuries that lead to total or partial paralysis and injuries that lead to the loss of a limb”).

The CDPHE statistic identified 96 of the 1,426 trauma entries in 2017-18 that included injuries defined as “severe” or “deep,” that is, approximately 96 major injuries for every 127,000 visits by a Colorado skater.

The resort industry has struggled to defeat similar legislation in other states. California lawmakers approved in 2010 A law requires resorts to publish safety plans And issuing monthly reports on injuries and deaths however Then- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opposed the bill. He said it had placed an “unnecessary burden on the resorts without guaranteeing a significant reduction in injuries and fatalities from skiing and snowboarding.”

This stance reflects the resort industry’s longstanding defense against reporting injuries. The industry argues that injury reports do not result in fewer infections and that resorts need no additional hassle to report every injury.

But the resorts have already recorded casualties. Statistics detailing most of the accidents in ski areas have been collected and analyzed by the same researcher, Jasper Shelley, for several decades. Shealy’s analysis of special injury databases – published in more than 100 peer-reviewed articles – shows that the rate of ski and snowboarding injuries has decreased over the past several decades.

Safety advocates say opening injury statistics for public review has resulted in advances in safety for cars, parks and daycare centers.

“The list of industries where improvements in safety have resulted directly from data transparency is long,” said Ross Rizzo of Safe Slopes of Colorado. “This is common sense. We know that skaters want this information and we feel they have a right to have this information.”

Snow patrols tend to an injured skier at Vail’s Game Creek Bowl, December 11, 2020 (Jason Plevins, Colorado Sun)

California legislation for 2010 was based on the work of Dr. Dan Gregory, a physician who has struggled with the resorts to publish statistics on injuries and deaths since his daughter died in an accident at the Alpine Meadows Resort in California in 2006.

On Monday, a statement from Colorado State Ski President Melanie Mills said the trade group, which represents 22 of the state’s 28 ski areas, and its members oppose the legislation and are concerned about the “wide-ranging effects” of the bill.

“We look forward to discussing it in the Colorado legislature,” the statement said.

In December, Mills rejected the CDPHE statistics, calling it an “incomplete dataset that has not been subject to the rigors of scientific review.” She said Gregory, who supports Colorado’s Safe Slopes Group, is “promoting a political agenda unrelated to the safety of skiers.”

“Policymakers in other states have not bought into his unscientific analysis and we don’t expect Colorado policymakers to do that as well,” Mills told the Colorado Sun in December.

Story, the state senator who co-sponsored the bill, has been skiing in Colorado for 30 years. She raised her children to ski. When I became a legislator in 2019, I heard from many skiers who were worried about safety. I’ve researched liability exemptions – which every resort in Colorado uses for all skiers who purchase a pass or a lift – that limit liability in addition to the protections offered in the Ski Safety Act of 1979. She wants skiers and state regulators to have more information about safety in Ski resorts.

Read more ski stories from The Colorado Sun

“The sheer volume of serious injuries speaks of the need: Skiing and horseback riding cause injuries that are more serious than any other activity in our state other than driving,” she said in “Nonetheless, we lack basic details of where or why they occurred.” Monday’s statement. “Transparency will lead to more informed consumers making better decisions for their families, potentially safety improvements in ski and snowboard equipment, and it will add a required level of accountability that does not currently exist.”

Streebs hope to teach their kids to ski. They encourage legislation that would give them more information about how and where they should do so in the safest way.

“There is an urgent need for transparency,” said Scott Strip. “It seems that the resorts enjoy a great deal of protection in their ability to function. With better information, can we make better decisions? Could the resorts be better, with safety protocols and procedures that might have been able to save Ethan?”

Daniela Streep hopes to work with lawmakers to convince them of the need for more transparency in reporting the resort’s safety.

“This is not about destroying an industry,” she said. “It’s about accountability. We have movies rated for kids or adults. Seat belts are needed in cars. We have all kinds of things that keep us from being in situations where we might not have control. Why not ski?”

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