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Denver, CO, Oct. 22 (AP by Robert Weller)–Skiers and snowboarders have been told to rein in the recklessness this winter as the nation’s ski resorts step up safety programs following a particularly deadly season.
With just days before the opening of some ski areas, resort managers say they’re ready to strip season passes and daily lift tickets from hotdogging skiers who jet through congested areas, risking serious injury to themselves and others.
“More people will be more closely watching the slopes this year,” said Paul Witt of Colorado’s Vail Resorts. “If people don’t feel the resort is doing something about safety, they are not going to come to the slopes.”
The increased monitoring comes as part of the “Heads Up” safety awareness campaign by the National Ski Areas Association launched Thursday at Colorado’s Loveland ski area west of Denver.
Last season, 39 people died on U.S. ski slopes, compared with 26 the year before and an average of 34. The worst season for ski deaths came in 1994-95, when 49 people died on the slopes.
The number of overall injuries fell 50 percent last season, though serious injuries such as paralysis or other spinal cord injuries increased slightly. That was despite a 2.5 percent decline in national skier and snowboarder visits, the equivalent of one person skiing or snowboarding one day.
While insisting the slopes remain safe overall, industry officials point out that many deaths and serious injuries involve young men who ski too fast.
Twelve of last year’s victims died on Colorado slopes _ nearly twice the yearly average. In one, a teen-age skier slammed into a 60-year-old snowboarder, killing both.
“It’s an anomaly,” said John Frew of Colorado Ski Country USA. “No one in the industry can remember the last time two people died in a collision.”
Melissa O’Brien of the Park City resort in Utah said officials there decided to implement a patrol program after skiers suggested it.
“They were complaining about people speeding through slow skiing zones,” she said.