Linking Turns: Skier injury stats, an economist’s Vail take and a top 10 ski towns list

Midwest Ski Journal likes to highlight a few pieces of skiing internet worth your time in Linking Turns. Find the best, most important, least important and otherwise links here each week.

On this week’s Linking Turns, we will take a look at some skiing injury statistics, an economist’s bleak assessment of Vail Resorts and lighten things up with one of USA Today’s sure-to-piss-everyone-off reader surveys about the best ski towns.

TURN 1: Up to 55 injured skiers and snowboarders arrive at Colorado emergency rooms each day, analysis shows (Jason Blevins/Colorado Sun)

Jason Blevins of the Colorado Sun put together this piece analyzing ski and snowboarding injuries over time at Colorado hospitals during a year where limiting hospital visits over the last year has been critical for these mountain communities. As a new season begins to churn, he looks at what mountain-goers are injuring, where they are getting injured and what their treatment looks like.

For instance, Blevins found that a third of ski and snowboard hospital visits required immediate surgery and that, to nobody’s surprise, most injuries were to the legs.

Blevins even quotes a Colorado doctor who said the situation deserves more attention.

These numbers indicate a significant public health and safety risk that is not being addressed at all in Colorado,” said Dan Gregorie, a retired physician whose Snowsports Safety Foundation has spent 14 years working with lawmakers to push ski resorts to provide more detailed information about safety plans, accidents and injuries. “I can’t think of another recreational activity that generates these kinds of numbers.

Dan Gregorie/Snowsports Safety Foundation, via Jason Blevins/Colorado Sun

Despite Gregorie’s concern, the article outlines data that shows just one “catastrophic” injury per 1 million skier visits in the United States. One in every 10,800 skiers was hospitalized nationwide, too.

It may not seem like your type of fun to peruse an analysis of skier injuries, but this story is really well done and informative.

Blue at Vail. January 2020.

TURN 2: Vail Resorts Is Skiing Straight Into An Icy Patch (Alex Neiberding/Seeking Alpha)

Economist Alex Neiberding wrote this piece assessing the value of Vail Resorts as the skiing industry behemoth navigates its most uncertain season yet.

Neiberding weaves in and out of jargony financial talk, but includes some insights I thought were interesting, despite my not wanting to hear them.

He said that, despite Vail Resorts’s valuation being an all-time high, its operations this year are anything but assured. He pointed to Europe where ski resorts have been shut down to stop the pandemic and said an incoming Joe Biden administration might provide enough financial relief to states to allow them to close ski areas.

Neiberding says he is an “avid” skier himself and says there are ways to ski safely, but he sums up his pessimism about Vail Resorts’s stock in his conclusion.

The COVID-19 vaccine will arrive too late to save this winter’s ski season. The U.S. has no chance of reaching anything like herd immunity that soon. It is risky to assume that resorts will be allowed to remain open through the season, even at the current limited capacity. Many countries recently closed all their ski resorts, including Germany, France and Italy. Canada has essentially just closed its borders to ski tourists. Expect the incoming Biden administration to provide political and financial support to state governors to take much more far-reaching measures to save American lives than we have so far seen.

Alex Neiberding/Seeking Alpha

TURN 3: These are the best ski towns, according to readers (USA Today)

These USA Today reader surveys about the ski industry are always pretty buzzy. I’m sure their devoted readership and survey-takers are not your typical ski people, so the results always tend to throw skiers and riders for a loop.

I love these rankings for that reason. It might be a sort of love-to-hate situation, but there’s something uniquely American about yelling at USA Today readers about how wrong they are.

The East Coast bias is pretty evident here, with 3 of the top 4 being Northeast ski areas. I was impressed, however, with the Canadian representation. I don’t have much personal experience to back some of these places up, but Rossland, Banff both made the list.

My head scratchers: Alta and Breckenridge. Alta is barely a town at all, which contributes to its charm, I guess, but seems a weird addition to the top 10. Breckenridge, while once a great ski town, more resembles a mall than a classic ski town in its current form, in my opinion.

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