Like any activity, downhill skiing and snowboarding can be dangerous and accidents do happen. There are many ways to minimize these risks such as helmets, but ultimately there will always be risks.

This year I have seen my share of accidents and in this post il go over a couple of the more interesting accidents, but first, some that I wasn’t there for. Earlier this year, Mr. Joe Zuiches A member of the Squaw Valley Ski Patrol passed away after the detonation of a hand charge while conducting avalanche control. This unfortunate tradgety demonstrates that not only beginners get hurt but professionals do too and even with years of training accidents can still happen.

Early in March, Jackson Hole ski instructor, Natty Hagood was skiing with his roommate and friend, when the first run of the day took an unexpected turn. As they were skiing through the trees, Hagood ventured too close to a tree and paid a hefty price. At first he thought his chin strap had slid up but he soon realized it was much worse. He had been empaled through his lip and cheek by a branch. Being a ski instructor he knew to alert local ski patrol to immobilize the remaining branch and transport him to the bottom of the hill. From there he travelled to the hospital where it was surgically removed. Below are photos of his injury.



There is obviously not a need for avalanche control here, and we haven’t had a fatality that I know of, but there has still been some interesting cases. To start, this year after a couple of drinks, a customer travelling at high speed, caught an edge, leaving his leg visibly broken and off at a weird angle. The responding patrollers immobilized the leg using a splint which held the limb in place and transported the patient to the bottom to meet the ambulance. Even the liquor couldn’t numb the pain especially considering an almost 30 minute wait for the ambulance. The outcome was unfortunately a fracture of both bones in the lower leg.

Just this past week, I was asked by an instructor for some help, as I walked out of the patrol room there was a young girl with blood dripping down her chin, coat and onto the bench she was sitting on. Without shedding a tear she explained that she had hit herself in the mouth with her ski pole when it  got stuck in the snow. Fortunately her teeth were okay and with only a small cut on her lip and one inside her mouth she went back out for a couple more runs after some pressure to stop the bleeding and ice to bring the swelling down.

Lastly the most common injury I have seen this year, other than bumps and bruises are suspected fractured wrists, especially in snowboarders. Each case differs in severity from  bruised or sprained to displaced fractures where the two ends of the bone are no longer in line. This typically requires surgery and the additions of metal plates to hold the bones in place.


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