Abramson Smith Waldsmith LLP

Beware of late-day ski and snowboard injuries this holiday season

Imagine you're with loved ones enjoying some much-needed time on the slopes. You've had a great time for hours, watching the powder fly as you make your way up and down the hills and across the trails. Things are wrapping up, and you're just making one last run before heading out. One minute all is well, then the next thing you remember, you are waking up on a sled being pulled down the mountain by the ski patrol on your way to a waiting ambulance.

You've suffered a serious injury while skiing, and now that the pain has set in, you are left to face tests, doctor visits and pain as you wonder one thing: what happened?

The prime time for injuries

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the majority of ski and snowboarding-related injuries happen after a full day or a few hours out on the slopes. It seems to be that "one last run" that gets many people who fall prey to these types of injuries. Dr. Travis Maak, a Utah orthopedic surgeon and former ski patrol volunteer, has a few ideas about why that could be.

It could have to do with your muscles being tired from all the earlier activity. Fatigue causes less stability in the muscles, ligaments and tendons, making them all more susceptible to injury after the repetitive motions of going up and down the run. When your muscles are too tired to support your joints, ligaments can strain or tear, leading particularly to knee, hip and ankle injuries.

The elements play a role as well

Another key factor in late-day ski and snowboarding injuries is fluctuations in temperature. When the sun is high in the sky, the temperature tends to be a bit warmer. The powder is looser, perhaps there's a light wind keeping things aerated, and trails are better groomed. As the day goes on, the snow tends to get more packed down. Add a dropping temperature on top of that, and you can get icy spots on the runs that can lead to accidents.

As the runs and trails become more and more worn-down, you can also have issues with previously covered obstacles and hazards becoming exposed. For example, rocks or tree stumps that might have been covered in snow earlier in the day could be revealed when snow is blown around or shifts. It is up to the resort owner or operator to ensure that runs, trails and ski-lifts are kept safe, free from hazards and well-maintained. Failure to do that can result in serious injuries.

If you were injured at one of California's beautiful ski areas, you may have a legal claim for compensation. To learn more, contact a personal injury attorney in your area with experience handling the idiosyncrasies of skiing and snowboarding-related accidents.

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