Skiing may be one of Colorado’s biggest tourism draws, but that doesn’t come without risk.
About 600,000 people are injured every year from skiing and snowboarding, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
Skiers can injure their knees and are prone to lower-leg fractures. Snowboarders can hurt their ankles, wrists or collarbones. That’s just to name a few risks.
But before you toss out the sticks for a calmer day in the ski resort spa or hot tub, know this: The number of ski-related injuries is going down. In fact, studies estimate it’s dropped 50 percent since the mid-’70s.
This is due in part to technological and equipment advances, according to the Vitals Index.
Vitals examined ski resorts across the nation to determine which are the safest. That includes the number of runs, lifts, average snowfall and the cost of a day pass, as well as the proximity to medical facilities, in case of an injury.
Vitals added in the other factors to provide a holistic view of the quality of the ski resort, according to a spokesperson. In the future, Vitals also plans to add other data points to the report, such as the number of professional ski patrols and access to a heli-vac and on-site clinics.
Not surprisingly, resorts don’t tend to release the number of injuries per year, so that didn’t play into the rankings.
Also not surprisingly, a handful of Colorado resorts earned a spot in the top 20. Here are some highlights from the 2016 report:
Colorado’s upscale ski town was the highest-ranking in state but still didn’t make the top 10 for the nation. At No. 12, was noted for having five medical facilities within close distance. Other factors: Aspen’s 300 inches of average snowfall; 329 runs; and 43 lifts.
Not in the report but notable, Aspen's affluence also certainly doesn't hurt its access to health care and healthy food. Aspen is a wealthy town. It's considered a "billionaire's retreat." At one point, Aspen was named the most expensive town in America.
A day pass to ski Aspen is on the pricier side, but it's not traditionally Colorado's most expensive. For the 2017-18 ski season, Aspen's slopes will be open Nov. 26-April 23.
This famous and luxurious resort landed near the bottom of the list, at No. 16, in part due to its hefty lift ticket. Also, Vail only offers three nearby medical facilities.
As for the other factors, Vail’s average snowfall was higher than Aspen’s, at 353. But it only boasts 195 runs and 31 lifts, the study reported.
Not on the report but also contributing to its health, Vail is also an expensive place to live (and visit). The cost of living in Vail is more than double the average overall cost of living in the United States, according to BestPlaces.net's cost of living index. Housing is the main factor driving that price up, the index explained.
In Vail, stay at the Sonnenalp, one of the town’s most esteemed lodges. If healthy is what you’re seeking, the Sonnenalp has one of Vail’s top spas and a great indoor-outdoor pool, plus a smoothie bar next to the water.
For the 2017-18 ski season, Vail's ski slopes will be open Nov. 17 to April 15. (The city itself is open year-round, even after the slopes close.)
This ski resort fell just below Vail on the Vitals list, due to its limited medical care offerings. Like Vail, Telluride only offers three medical centers nearby. However, Telluride’s average snowfall is less, at only 309 inches, and so are its runs and lifts: 147 and 18, respectively. A day pass here is much cheaper, though.
You will have to drive pretty far to get to Telluride, however. It's more than a six-hour drive. Or if you have the money, you can save time and take a small plane ride between the two cities.
Telluride's slopes are open Dec. 2 to April 2 for the 2017-18 ski season. It has a shorter season than some of the other popular, healthy ski resorts due to its location in southern Colorado. That also contributes to Telluride's smaller snowfall number.