Crested Butte, CO (WorkersCompensation.com) – When 74-year-old Roxie Lypps was teaching two teenagers how to ski last year she was run-over by a snowboarder.
Knocked to the ground on the outside edge of her ski, Lypps said the snowboarder took off without stopping to see if she was okay. She wasn’t.
Lypps was diagnosed with a tibial plateau fracture and a torn meniscus on her left leg. After surgery and a 4-day hospital stay, she had to have bone grafting, medial meniscus repair, and drainage on her leg to avoid infection. She would not teach skiing again that season.
Lypps, who started teaching skiing in 1991, said she was unnerved by the injury.
“If I had done it to myself, I wouldn’t be as upset. But to have been taken out and have the person just take off is so much worse,” she told the Crested Butte News in 2018. “This person never even slowed down.”
Unlike many injuries to ski and ride school instructors, her injuries were caused by someone else. But a new report from Pinnacol Assurance shows that ski and ride school workers are commonly injured on the job. Looking at data from mountain resorts that filed claims from 2014-2018 the company was able to show the frequency of injury, as well as the most common type of injury and location of the injuries.
The company said 67 injuries were reported for claims in the 2018-2019 ski season, alone.
“Ski and ride instructors are by far the largest group of employees on the job on any given day at most resorts, which creates a significantly higher exposure than smaller groups of workers,” said Ellen Sarvay, Pinnacol safety consultant and expert in Colorado’s ski industry. “Also, the average ski and ride instructor spends about four to six hours per shift on the snow – which is longer than most other workers at these resorts.”
Pinnacol covers more than half of the employers in Colorado. Of those whose operations were ski resorts, the most frequent cause of injury was falls on the snow and ice, followed by strains, twisting strains and lacerations.
But other employees at mountain resorts were prone to injuries as well.
“Most people think of only ski instructors and rescue personnel at ski resorts,” Sarvay said in an interview with WorkersCompensation.com. “But there are food service employees and others who work there. Many of them have to ski or ride their snowboards to get to work. And in some cases, the location of the food service is not at the end of a road, but only accessible by skis or snowboards. That increases the likelihood of injury.”
According to OSHA, in 2017 employees at ski resorts had an incident rate more than three times higher than the national average. Data from the nonfatal occupational injury and illness report shows that in that year, the incidence rate for ski resorts was 10.2, while the incident rate for the nation as a whole was 3.1. Incident rates were calculated by the number of injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time equivalent workers.
Sarvay said that while the incidents of injury at ski resorts in Colorado that they’ve dealt with have decreased slightly, the number of incidents remains fairly consistent.
According to Pinnacol, collisions, entanglements while getting off lift chairs, and “catching an edge” are common sources of injury for workers. The most common locations for injuries were the knees and shoulders, followed by the lower back, skull and fingers.
Employers can reduce their exposure by encouraging preseason conditioning programs for employees, as well as using ongoing employer-led wellness programs to promote proper sleep, nutrition and hydration, the report said.