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Many causes of ski injuries

Coloradans have our own language, and it's frequently tied to the local elevation. In Grand Junction that's 4,583 feet above sea level, defined by the majestic Rockies. We use the land as our playground, and downhill skiing is one of the state's top attractions for both locals and tourists.

Though skiing is known for some risk, it's actually safer than many other sports, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) reports. Fatalities are quite rare and overall accidents have gone down measurably since the 1970s, holding steady in recent years. As technology changes, so have the injury types, but overall it remains consistent in the total number of reported injuries: 2.63 injuries per 1,000 skiers (and slightly higher for snowboarders). Note that these statistics include only reported injuries. Many skiers go home with soreness, bruises and sprains that don't show in any database. This doesn't mean they didn't happen.

Man or mountain?

When on the slopes, there are three primary causes of injury:

  • Skier behavior
  • Skier technique and endurance
  • Physical conditions

Contrary to news reports that focus on drama, ski collisions are rare, the NSAA says. Most injuries happen from poor trail conditions, reckless athletes or improper technique. A former ski patrol volunteer and sports medicine expert, Dr. Travis Maak, explains that endurance is the most frequent cause of injury. When a skier gets tired, the knees absorb much of the force and it puts too much tension on the joint, which can cause an ACL injury, which he dubs "the skier's injury."

Because skiing seasonal and emphasizes core lower body strength, the sport uses muscles that casual skiers don't work out in daily life. Combining the elements with the way we ski -- specifically that we ski for a full day when we go -- puts too much strain on the body and bad things happen.

Is the resort liable?

Collisions and endurance issues aren't the only cause of injuries, though. The ski lodge and trail conditions need to be maintained. Ski lift injuries are common, and the warm lodge itself can be a hazard. With all the melting snow and hot/cold temperature variation near entryways, wet and slippery spots frequently form.

Many resorts require customers to sign a waiver before hitting slopes and you should always read it carefully to make sure you understand who is liable for an accident. Generally, accidents caused by your own physical fitness are your liability. When another skier collides or cuts you off, causing an accident, that skier can be at fault for any damages to equipment, body and well-being.

The lodge, depending on your waiver, needs to uphold their end of the agreement as well. Your ticket purchase is for maintained and groomed trails, smooth operating lift chairs and hazard-free public spaces.

There are many variables concerning liability and potential injuries on the slopes. Skiing a way of life for many Coloradans, but don't let your injuries go unreported. Joint pains can recur for years after the injury and damages extend well beyond the physical: from missed time at work to medical costs and new ski equipment, which we all know costs a premium. A premise liability attorney can help determine damages and what steps to take when you've been injured, sorting through the waivers to make sure that you recover.

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