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Here’s how California ski resorts are tackling the leading cause of skier deaths

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The age-old “Code of Responsibility,” designed to help alpine skiers navigate the country’s ski resorts themselves while carving, is not often updated. But this year it was — and California ski resorts are trying to show skiers like never before in hopes of avoiding the number one cause of skier deaths last winter: collisions with trees.

The code is written by the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), whose members include most of the country’s approximately 460 ski areas. It has long included sound advice such as “always remain in control and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects” and give way guidelines for navigating large crowds on steep slopes.

This year, the previous six-point code has been updated with two new bullet ground rules for skiers:

• Do not use elevators or grounds if impaired by alcohol or drugs.

• If you are involved in a collision or incident, share your contact information with each other and a resort representative.

According to the NSAA’s annual statistics, 57 ski resort deaths and 54 “catastrophic injuries” were reported last year — numbers much higher than the 10-year average of 39 deaths and 45 catastrophic injuries between 2010 and 2020, the association reports does not provide details of incidents or deaths or where they occur, so it is not possible to break down California statistics. But it says the vast majority of the incidents involved men between the ages of 21 and 30 crashing into trees.

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