Arapahoe Basin tries to save knees |

Arapahoe Basin tries to save knees

Ashley Dickson
Summit County, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado ” It can happen at any time on the ski slopes. One little slip in the wrong direction can cause a tear in the knee’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), ending a skier’s season in the blink of an eye.

That’s why Arapahoe Basin has partnered with worker’s compensation insurer Pinnacol Assurance, to provide on-mountain employees with some helpful hints on avoiding knee injuries.

“This is a very big issue for resorts,” Pinnacol Assurance safety expert Keith Rice said. “We looked at five years worth of data that showed injuries were really driving their costs up.”

Skiers are particularly susceptible to ACL injuries, and strains can occur when landing jumps, skiing moguls or during twisting falls.

The most common signifier of a sever ACL injury is an audible “pop” sound followed by immediate pain and swelling around the area. While the knee can still be functional with a moderate tear, serious injury usually requires surgery.

“Working with Pinnacol we determined that ACL injuries are one of the most costly and prevalent injuries for skiers and snowboarders,” Arapahoe Basin assistant general manager Peggy Hiller said. “Just one on-mountain ACL injury can make a huge difference in the kind of worker’s compensation year we have.”

It’s estimated that an on-mountain ACL injury can cost anywhere between $25,000 and $50,000 per injury claim, resulting in huge losses for the ski resort.

Pinnacol Assurance worked with 16 different ski resorts to develop a three-part kit that incorporates prevention tips, hands-on demonstrations and a video segment that was filmed at Arapahoe Basin.

The video also includes an interview with Vail-based orthopedic surgeon Dr. William Sterett, and footage of an actual ACL surgery.

“I think the program really helps people think about the mechanics behind the injury and how to change their behavior,” Hiller said.

The video segment encourages on-mountain employees to avoid “being in the back seat,” when weight is distributed unevenly and more pressure is put on the back of the skis.

Skiers are also advised to take a more athletic stance when skiing, making sure weight is distributed right over the knees and legs are hip-width apart.

“We follow-up with employees on the mountain and ask them if they have changed their behavior,” Rice said. “So far, the response has been great.”

The new program is the only one of its kind, and Pinnacol has introduced it to other resorts like Loveland Ski Area, Steamboat Ski Resort and Aspen area mountains. The employee training lasts only 30 minutes, and in its first year the program is generating plenty of positive feedback.

“If we save just one ACL that is huge for us,” Hiller said. “This is definitely a model we want to keep using in the future.”

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