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"SKIING IS A SLIDING SPORT"--a skiing web manual: contents (topics at page bottoms of manual)

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  Slope Safety


by Bill Jones, Ski Instructor
Certified Professional Ski Instructor (Registration #110478), Level III
How To Reserve Private Ski Lessons with Bill Jones

I fear that I will break a leg if I ski" is a commonly heard concern about the ski sport.
 What is the real risk?

It is often noted that a ski injury means one doesn't get to ski the rest of the season-or bike or hike the following season, and maybe even worse.

A sign on a road in Mexico reads "La vida no es el mismo despues el accidente"
("Life is not the same after the accident")

How does safety in skiing compare to that in other sports and activities?

We are searching for studies that make such comparisons. One we have found is a few years old, but does offer insights that may still be valid. Some of these may dispel commonly held notions. It is presented by the National Ski Areas Association, an industry group; salient points are below:

"Skiing and snowboarding are no more dangerous than other high-energy participation sports, and less so than some common activities. However, they are challenging and require physical skills that are only learned over time with practice. The sports involve some inherent risk, but in some measure, it is that risk that entices most skiers and riders to pursue the sport."

"the rate of collision accidents is not on the rise."

"the number of collisions accidents with other skiers or snowboarders accounts for only 6.4 percent of reported accidents."

"The overall rate of reported alpine ski injuries as of the year 2,000 remains essentially the same as 10 years ago—2.63 reported injuries per 1,000 skier visits."

"recent research has shown that the use of helmet reduces the incidence of any head injury by 30 to 50 percent, but that the decrease in head injuries is generally limited to the less serious injuries such as scalp lacerations, mild concussions (Grade I) and contusions to the head, as opposed to more serious injuries such as concussions greater than Grade II, skull fractures, closed head injuries and the like. There has been no significant reduction in fatalities over the past nine seasons even as the use of helmets overall has increased to more than 33 percent, and to as much as 40 percent within the population at greatest risk—experienced young adult male skiers and snowboarders."

"Snowboarders don’t appear to be making the slopes less safe for their skiing peers, either, says Dr. Shealy."

Are ski lessons safe?

Very limited data indicaes a rate of injury for persons in ski lessons at a bit less than half that of the general rate.

Go here for the complete article.

Here is a table of fatalities in sports activities from Bandolier (http://www.medicine.ox.ac.uk/bandolier/booth/Risk/sports.html). From this it appears that skiing is much safer than any other sport listed, including swimming and bicycling. We are still looking for good data to report on non-fatal accidents. Please forward any sources you know of.

Risk of dying and sporting activities

Clinical bottom line

The risk of dying associated with most sporting activities is surprisingly low, even with skydiving or hang gliding.

Data sources

  • Soreide et al. J Trauma. 2007;62:1113-1117. How Dangerous is BASE Jumping? An Analysis of Adverse Events in 20,850 Jumps From the Kjerag Massif, Norway
  • Turk et al. Br. J. Sports Med. 2008;42;604-608. Natural and traumatic sports-related fatalities: a 10-year retrospective study
  • United States Parachute Association accident statistics, http://www.uspa.org/about/page2/relative_safety.htm
  • Number of jumps made in 2006 from 2006 membership survey results, http://www.uspa.org/about/images/memsurvey06.pdf
  • Westman et al. Accident Analysis and Prevention 37 (2005) 1040-1048. Fatalities in Swedish Skydiving
  • Health and Safety Executive: Risk Education Statistics, http://www.hse.gov.uk/education/statistics.htm#death
  • Redelmeier et al. BMJ 2007;335;1275-1277. Competing risks of mortality with marathons: retrospective
  • analysis
  • Cantu et al. Neurosurgery 52:846-853, 2003. Brain injury-related fatalities in American football, 1945-1999
  • National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) in America: http://www.ski-injury.com/prevention/helmet

What the sources tell us

Careful examination of data from a number of sources tell us that, BASE jumping apart, sport is reasonably safe. There will be accidents, like folk drowning on holidays, or being involved in road traffic accidents while cycling, but by and large it is safer than most of us would probably have thought.

Give us the odds

Table 1 provides the information in useful ways. BASE jumping has a risk of death of 1 in every 2,300 jumps, whereas with hang gliding the risk is 1 in 116,000 flights. Figure 1 gives a few examples with contexts of other common causes of death.

Table 1: Risk of death with sports activities

Cause of Death
Number of Deaths
Population Estimate
Crude Rate per 100,000 population
Odds of Dying

(1 in )

BASE Jumping Norway (Kjerag Massif)
2,317 jumps
Swimming Germany
Cycling Germany
Running Germany
Skydiving US
101,083 jumps
Football Germany
Hang-gliding UK
116,000 flights
Tennis Germany
Sudden cardiac death whilst running a marathon US
126,626 runners
Horse Riding Germany
American Football US
1994-1999 (average annual figures)
Scuba Diving UK
200,000 dives
Table Tennis Germany
Rock Climbing UK
320,000 climbs
Canoeing UK
750,000 outings
Skiing US
1,556,757 visits

And here is another compilation from Teton Gravity Research at http://www.besthealthdegrees.com/health-risks (go to site for some doubts about accuracy of parts of the data):

Your Chances of Dying

From: Best Health Care Degrees

A Personal Aside

Bill Jones, ski instructor author of this website, has some 6 decades of experience watching the ski sport (over half of it as an instructor), and as a consequence has been an observer of fellow instructors who in general are athletic persons. He is aware that some have been injured skiing. He is also aware that some have been injured in other sports, and he notes that many of his ski instructor pals are also bicyclists. An impression he has is that more  have been injured--and injured more seriously--on their bikes than on their skis. Admittedly, he lacks hard data, and would welcome knowing of a source for same. Yet the chart above indicates as far as fatalities are concerned, skiing is much safer.

Another observation is that certain classes of skiers as to age, gender, physical conditioning, technical skill and skill level, slopes and snow types skiied, and personality--along with equipment in use--are more likely to be injured than others. Imagine, for instance, a young male with limited skill and bad equipment tackling a crusted-snow rock-lined avalanche chute versus a middle-aged fit woman with new gear on easy groomed ski runs under the guidance of an instructor.


"SKIING IS A SLIDING SPORT"--a skiing web manual:    Skiing Web Manual Contents   Why Read This Skiing Web Manual   That First Skiing Lesson   A Little Skiing History  Motion in Skiing  Conventional Skiing Wisdoms  Skier Excuses   Fear in Skiing  Conditioning for Skiing  Equipment and Technique  Skiing Equipment  How Skis Work   How to Develop Balance on Skis  A Skiing Turn Simplified  The Final Skiing Skill: pressure management   Tactics for Terrains and Snow Textures and Racing  Skiing Tips and Tales--a potpourri   Exercises for Developing Skiing Skills  Children and Skiing   Age and Skiing  Gender & Skiing Culture & Skiing Skiing Ethics & Slope Survival   SLOPE SAFETY Skiing Environment  Videos and Apps  Glossary  Acknowledgements SkiMyBest Website Contents  

This "Slope Safety" page last modified January 9, 2022. Did you come here from a link on another website? For latest version of this page, copy to your browser: http://www.SkiMyBest.com/skislsaf.htm. Copyright © 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022. William R Jones.