If you’re hitting the slopes this winter, it may be part of an annual winter ritual. Perhaps the hills have been your playground since childhood, and now you return to conquer the big hill that intimidates everyone else. Or you might come back to strut your finesse by showing off that new trick you worked so hard to perfect. If it’s your first time at a winter resort, all you might care for is the escape from daily hassles, fun with the family, and the crisp, clean air.
Apart from the wintery landscape and adrenaline-inducing activities, there are other realities that exist on the hills. No one wants to think about the dangers that lurk at winter resorts, but giving them some consideration can prevent the excitement from snowballing into tragedy. Having an understanding of these dangers gives rise to ways on how you can avoid them. In addition, a knowledge of your legal rights, such as an injury law firm who can assist you in the event of an injury, will give you confidence when you step foot onto the slopes.
Dangers at the Summit
Before you embark on your mission to be the next Shaun White or Tara Dakides, beware of the risks that exist on the slopes. It’s easy to allow infatuations with winter athletes or a desire for adrenaline rushes to overwhelm judgement or awareness. Even those who exercise utmost caution on the hills sometimes fall victim to grave injuries. While you shouldn’t let paranoia consume you regarding the risks, that doesn’t mean that it’s wise to dismiss injuries as just part of the game.
Boards and Bruises
Around 78 million North Americans visit ski resorts annually, and around 20-30% of that number are youth. Fortunately, the most common injuries that take place on the slopes are small in nature. Bruises are the most common, and if you’ve been skiing or snowboarding for a while, you’ve most likely sustained your share of bruises. Statistics show that the sport you partake in determines the types of injuries you are most likely to sustain. For example, alpine skiing often yields fractured knees and sprains, head and neck injuries, and injuries to the thumb. Snowboarding most often yields wrist injuries and head trauma. Snowmobile accidents often bring about skeletal trauma, as well as head and neck injuries. Accidents on snowmobiles are usually more severe in nature, and have higher fatality rates than skiing or snowboarding accidents. The typical injured skier or snowboarder is a young man in his teens or twenties, with rates in the range of 70% – 90%.
Tragedy on the Slopes
You have probably seen or heard about tragic accidents at winter resorts. Some of these accidents are shocking, and may cause you to question your actions as well as the conditions when you hit the hills. Like any accident, the outcomes can occur as a result of negligence or factors out of the victim’s control. Here are some examples:
A Minor Fall Turns Deadly – The untimely death of actress Natasha Richardson in 2009, is an example of an accident caused by factors beyond one’s control. The UK-born actress and former wife of actor Liam Neeson, suffered a head injury after falling during a skiing lesson at Mont Tremblant resort in Quebec. After the fall and refusal of medical attention, she experienced a period of normal function before developing a headache. Unfortunately, her condition deteriorated. She was flown out to Lenox Hill hospital in New York City where she died. An autopsy revealed the cause of death to be an epidural hematoma.
A Jump Ends a Teen’s Life – Last December, a 16 year-old boy died after attempting a jump at Lakeridge Ski resort in Uxbridge. The final jump he attempted was unsuccessful, and he sustained severe head trauma despite wearing a helmet. The boy was transferred to Sunnybrook hospital where he later died.
What To Do If You or Someone Else is Injured
Seeking immediate attention is the most important thing to do if injured. The same goes if a loved one or friend sustains an injury. Whatever is required, whether it is simple observation or medical attention, make sure it is a priority. The case of Natasha Richardson (mentioned above) shows the devastating consequences of pushing medical attention aside.
1. Stay with injured person. If injured, encourage those with you to stay nearby.
2. Flag another skier/snowboarder to send assistance.
3. Don’t move or shift the injured person, since you may worsen their injuries. If injured, remain still.
4. If possible (and uninjured), remove your skis and put them in an “X” shape to signal for help. If on a snowboard, stand on it – these gestures are signals for help.
5. If uninjured, stand up so that other skiers and snowboarders know to steer clear
In addition to these tips, it is essential that you heed the advice of medical professionals if they feel you need treatment. Even if you feel nothing more than a minor ache, such a symptom could be a sign of an injury that could turn worse if not attended to. By making your well-being a priority, you will greatly reduce the risk of serious complications in the future.
The Role of Injury Law Firms During Ski Accidents
If you sustain an injury despite your attempts to stay safe, an injury law firm can represent you. Of course, you will have to acknowledge that some accidents are genuinely the result of factors that no one can control. However, there are many instances where people sustain injuries due to the fault or negligence of others. If the cause of your injuries reveal no flaws with your actions, then it’s worth investigating outside factors.
Defective Products – Faulty equipment is a perpetrator of many winter sports accidents. Unfortunately, such problems go unnoticed. The teenage boy mentioned earlier may have worn a helmet that was substandard in its safety design. In fact, it’s suspected that many ski helmets and other equipment fail to offer sufficient protection, resulting in unnecessary injuries. If it becomes evident that you purchased safety equipment that was faulty, then you may want to consider pursuing legal action against the manufacturers. If you were to suffer a snowmobile accident as a result of defective manufacturing, you would also have the grounds to seek a lawyer.
Negligence – You should contact an injury law firm if there is blatant negligence on behalf of the resort. For example, there have been several ski lift accidents over the last few years, bringing their safety and reliability into question. If you were to sustain an injury from a ski lift, there’s a high chance that the transport is unsafe, and this gives you the right to pursue legal action. Also, you are entitled to legal representation if the ski resort staff or instructors are negligent themselves, such as a case involving an instructor who collided and severely injured a young skier.
How to Prevent Injuries
While the examples of accidents mentioned earlier can be frightening, there are steps you can take to reduce your injury risk. In fact, many accidents that turned serious or fatal could have remained minor, had the victim taken further precautions. Here’s what you can do to ensure that you’re safe on the slopes:
Stay Fit – Poor fitness is a contributor of winter sports accidents. Although you don’t need to have superhuman prowess, a good measure of leg strength and endurance is important, especially if you are a winter athlete. However, you can prevent injuries by keeping fit even if you are a casual skier or snowboarder.
Wear Safety Equipment – Yes, this is an obvious step to take, but many people feel that they don’t require full protection. Wearing your helmet is essential, as well as other pieces of equipment such as wrist guards, to prevent wrist injuries which are common after falls. Make sure that your kids use equipment that is not only comfortable, but fits their growing bodies. Also, try not to borrow old, worn-out equipment from friends, since they might no longer be as effective.
Be Responsible – If you are skiing with kids, it’s important to supervise them at all times. Ensure that they are not taking unnecessary risks or engaging in horseplay. Avoid the use of alcohol, especially if operating a snowmobile, and don’t attempt risky tricks or jumps if you are not very skilled in your activity.
Keep Safe on the Slopes
If you plan to hit the slopes this winter, make sure to put safety and responsibility first. There’s nothing wrong with trying to outdo your previous best time or pull off some difficult tricks, but you should put good judgement first. Making the effort to wear the highest standard equipment will go a long way, and your efforts to stay fit will help you as well. Of course, some injuries are unpreventable, but seeking immediate medical attention and the help of an injury law firm if necessary, will lead to recovery and closure. With these things in mind, you can hit the slopes without worry and focus on every stride downhill instead.