This story first appeared in The Outsider, the premium outdoor newsletter by Jason Blevins.
In it, he covers the industry from the inside out, plus the fun side of being outdoors in our beautiful state.
At least 17 people died at Colorado ski resorts in the 2022-23 ski season, an increase over previous years and above the seasonal average but still below the grim record of 22 fatalities set in the low-snow season of 2011-12.
Colorado ski resorts do not report deaths or injuries. This year’s statewide count comes from requests made by The Colorado Sun to coroners in 16 Colorado counties with ski areas.
There were at least nine skier and snowboarder deaths at Colorado ski areas in the 2021-22 ski season, down from at least 11 fatalities in the 2020-21 ski season. Ski areas across the country reported 57 fatal accidents in the 2021-22 ski season, up from 48 in the 2020-21 ski season.
There were also two teenagers killed while sledding in the closed Copper Mountain halfpipe after the resort was closed for the night. There were at least four deaths resulting from medical issues. Five people died after colliding with a tree. And at least two people died after falling into deep snow, like a tree well. And 16 of the season’s 17 deaths inside ski resort boundaries were men.
Here is the list of ski area deaths reported from coroners in 16 Colorado counties with ski areas.
- Dec, 29, 2022: A 26-year-old Louisiana man died from a heart attack at Winter Park ski area.
- Jan. 3, 2023: A 70-year-old Basalt man skiing at Aspen Highlands collided with a tree and died two days later. He was not wearing a helmet.
- Jan. 6, 2023: A 29-year-old Minnesota man died while skiing Powderhorn. He was discovered in several feet of snow on an advanced trail, according to a statement by Mesa County coroner Dr. Dean Havlik. He was wearing a helmet.
- Jan. 12, 2023: A 63-year-old Fort Collins man died while skiing at Vail ski area following complications of hypertensive cardiovascular disease, according to the Eagle County Coroner’s Office.
- Jan. 12, 2023: A 23-year-old Maryland man died while snowboarding at Vail ski area. He was found in a tree well and the Eagle County Coroner’s Office concluded his cause of death was “positional / mechanical asphyxia due to entrapment of, and restriction of, airways and torso.”
- Jan. 13, 2023: A 65-year-old Kentucky man died after falling into a tree well while skiing at Steamboat ski area.
- Jan. 21, 2023: A 34-year-old Boulder man died after colliding with a tree while skiing at Breckenridge ski area. He was wearing a helmet.
- Jan. 26, 2023: A 27-year-old Silverthorne man died after crashing in the Makaha terrain park while skiing at Snowmass ski area. He was wearing a helmet.
- Feb. 17, 2023: A 40-year-old Durango man died while snowboarding in a closed area at Purgatory ski area. He was wearing a helmet.
- Feb. 22, 2023: An 81-year-old Iowa man died while skiing at Steamboat ski area.
- March 1, 2023: A 39-year-old Oklahoma man died while skiing at Purgatory after suffering head injuries from a collision with a tree. He was wearing a helmet.
- March 9, 2023: A 71-year-old New Jersey man died after colliding with a tree while skiing at Snowmass ski area. He was wearing a helmet.
- March 17, 2023: A 60-year-old Illinois man died after falling from a chairlift at Breckenridge ski area.
- March 19, 2023: A 17-year-old and 18-year-old, both male, from Illinois, died in a sledding crash in the Copper Mountain halfpipe when the resort was not operating and the halfpipe was closed.
- March 20, 2023: An 81-year-old Wisconsin man died from cardiac arrest at Winter Park ski area.
- April 2, 2023: A 58-year-old Texas woman died while skiing at Eldora ski area after crashing and colliding with a tree.
The March 17 death of the Illinois man resulted from a fall from Breckenridge’s Zendo chairlift, a fixed-grip quad. The man fell about 25 feet shortly before the first lift tower.
An investigation by the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board determined the chairlift was not malfunctioning and did not have any mechanical and electrical issues. The board’s investigation report cited a passenger on the chair with the man describing how “the victim twisted to brush something off of the chair seat and in twisting slid off of the chair.”
The rare chairlift death was the first since 2016, when a chairlift malfunctioned at Ski Granby Ranch, throwing Kelly Huber and her two daughters to the ground. Huber died and her family sued the resort for wrongful death. The Ski Granby Ranch resort settled with the Huber family in 2022. Huber’s death was the first fatality caused by a malfunctioning chairlift in Colorado since a chairlift failure at Keystone killed two and injured 49 in 1985, and the first nationally since a 1993 death at California’s Sierra Ski Ranch.
The National Ski Areas Association counts 14 fatalities on U.S. ski area chairlifts from seven mechanical malfunctions from 1973 to 2020, a span in which the industry provided more than 18.3 billion rides to skiers, covering 9.2 billion miles.