Here’s how California ski resorts are fighting the leading cause of death for skiers

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The long-standing “code of responsibility” meant to help alpine skiers navigate while carving slopes at the nation’s ski resorts isn’t updated often. But this year it was, and California ski areas are trying to get it in front of skiers like never before in hopes of avoiding the leading cause of skier deaths last winter: collisions with trees.

The code is written by the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), whose members include most of the country’s roughly 460 ski resorts. It has long included common-sense advice like “always stay in control and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects” as well as right-of-way guidelines for navigating large crowds on steep grades.

This year, the old six-point code was updated with two new basic rules for skiers:

• Do not use the elevators or grounds when under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

• If you are involved in a collision or incident, share your contact information with others and with a ski area employee.

According to the NSAA’s annual statistics, 57 ski fatalities were reported last year, as well as 54 “catastrophic injuries,” numbers that are much higher than the 10-year averages of 39 fatalities and 45 catastrophic injuries between 2010 and 2020. The association does not detail incidents or deaths or disclose where they occur, so it is not possible to break down the California statistics. But he says the vast majority of the incidents involved men between the ages of 21 and 30 who ran into trees.

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