Editor’s note to readers on Summit Daily series on skier death data
April 12, 2017
Today we're rolling out a series on ski-related deaths in Colorado. The reporting is sourced largely from a database we've compiled of every ski-related death at a resort since the 2006-07 season. There are 137 names in all. Each person has dignity and deserves to be counted.
It was a tough and laborious project to put together, and it's one that may not win us many friends in the ski industry. But it's not an assignment we took lightly. We don't have an axe to grind. We recognize that the ski industry is a vibrant and essential part of our state's culture and economy — in Summit County especially. We know personally many of the good people who work at our area resorts.
It's no secret that skier death and injury data are difficult to obtain. The ski industry is not required to make such information public — not by the U.S. Forest Service and not by any other government agency — and so they don't.
We recognize that the ski industry is a vibrant and essential part of our state’s culture and economy
— in Summit County especially. We know personally many of the good people who work at our area resorts. However, we firmly believe that the public has a right to know information that might make us all safer.
Despite that systemic lack of transparency, we found another way to better understand the nature of ski fatalities in Colorado, but that too presented challenges of its own.
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Over the past three months, reporter Kevin Fixler has filed record request after record request to gather all public documents on ski fatalities in Colorado for the past decade. Coroners across the state initially denied access, used intimidation tactics and consulted county attorneys in an attempt to keep this information from public view. In the end, we managed to compile a comprehensive catalogue of each mother, father, son and daughter who has died in a ski accident during the past 10 years.
Heather Jarvis, the Summit Daily's digital editor, has spent weeks plotting each person, complete with photos and brief biographies, on an interactive state map that we hope will make them more than just statistics. We also hope it can be used to assist Colorado skiers in making better, safer and more-informed decisions on where they ski. There's a dearth of good data on these tragedies and we want to put an end to that.
Why call the series "Whiteout"? It first started with the concept of blackout. The word speaks to a concerted effort to obscure information from public view. Consider "Whiteout" to be the winterized version of that idea. It was an uphill struggle to obtain this information, but we believe it was worth it. It is the goal of this series to bring greater clarity and visibility to a subject that affects all of us.
Ben Trollinger is the editor of the Summit Daily News. Email him at email@example.com.