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"SKIING IS A SLIDING SPORT":
Slope Safety--"Facts About Skiing/Snowboard Safety"
by Bill Jones, Ski Instructor
Certified Professional Ski Instructor (Registration
#110478), Level III
private ski lessons at Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail, Beaver Creek, Arapahoe Basin, other areas
An article presented by the National Ski
Areas Association, an industry group. Text is found at http://www.nsaa.org/nsaa/press/0506/facts-about-skiing-and-snowboarding.asp.
Facts About Skiing/Snowboarding Safety
Updated March 2006
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.
Statistics on skiing/snowboarding
Fatalities - According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA): During the
past 10 years, about 38 people have died skiing/snowboarding per year on
average. During the 2004/2005 season, 45 fatalities occurred out of the 56.9
million skier/snowboarder days reported for the season. Thirty of the fatalities
were skiers (39 male, 6 female) and 15 of the fatalities were snowboarders (14
male, 1 female). The rate of fatality was .80 per million skier/snowboarder
Note: A skier/snowboarder visit represents one person visiting a ski area for
all or any part of a day or night and includes full-day, half-day, night,
complimentary, adult, child, season and any other ticket types that gives one
the use of an area's facility.
Serious Injuries - Serious injuries (paraplegics, serious head and other
serious injuries) occur at the rate of about 42 per year, according to the NSAA.
In the 2004/05 season, there were 45 serious injuries. Twenty-four of these
serious injuries were skiers (18 males, 6 females) and 21 were snowboarders (19
males, 2 females). The rate of serious injury in 2004/05 was .80 per million
Comparative statistics to other sports
Death rates experienced in different activities are sometimes difficult to
compare because of different ways of expressing exposure to risk. Below
skiing/snowboarding fatalities per million are presented based on “visits” (can
be referred to as days of participation) and by participants. Drowning due to
swimming and fatalities related to bicycling are also listed below.
- 2004 number of fatalities* 45
- Number of participants (in millions)** 12.2
- Fatalities per million participants 3.69
- Days of participation (in millions)* 56.9
- Fatalities per days of participation rate (per million) .79
- 2004 number of fatalities*** 2,900
(Drowning: Includes drownings of person swimming or playing in water, or
falling into water, except on home premises or at work. Excludes drownings
involving boats, which are in water transportation)
- 2004 Number of participants (in millions)** 53.4
- Fatalities per million participants 54.3
- Days of participation (in millions)** 2294
- Fatalities per days of participation rate (per million) 1.26
Bicycling (resulting from collisions with motor vehicles)
- 2004 number of fatalities*** 900
- Number of participants (in millions)** 40.3
- Fatalities per million participants 22.3
- Days of participation (in millions)** 2,379
- By days of participation rate (per million) .38
* National Ski Areas Association
** National Sporting Goods Association (Sports Participation, 2004 edition)
***National Safety Council (Injury Facts, 2005-2006 edition)
**** Divers Alert Network, North Carolina
Note: The "participant per million" rate is calculated by dividing the number of
fatalities by the number of participants. The "days of participation" rate is
calculated by dividing the number of fatalities by the days of participation.
An Additional Perspective
Although there is no statistical significance to the following, it helps to
offer a perspective: The National Safety Council (Injury Facts, 2005 Edition)
points out: 46,200 Americans died in motor-vehicle accidents (2004); 5,900
pedestrians were killed (2004); 6,700 died from falls from one level to another
or on the same level (excludes deaths from falls in moving vehicles) (2004);
3,600 died from poisoning by solids and liquids, gases and vapors (2004); 31
died from lightning (2004); and 34 died from tornadoes (2004).
Frequently Asked Questions
How often do collision accidents with other people occur on the
According to Jasper Shealy, professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology
in Rochester, N.Y., who has studied ski related injuries for more than 30 years,
the number of collisions accidents with other skiers or snowboarders accounts
for only 6.4 percent of reported accidents. Shealy’s research also confirmed
that alpine skiers are three times more likely to be involved in a collision
with other people than snowboarders.
Are the rates of collisions among skiers and snowboarders on the
No, the rate of collision accidents is not on the rise. In fact, the research
conducted by ski injury researcher Jasper Shealy indicates that there has no
significant change in 30 years with rates remaining at approximately 6.9 percent
of accidents reported.
What is the best way to avoid a collision with another skier or
The best way to avoid a collision is to follow the seven steps of Your
Responsibility Code including, stay in control, stop in a safe place for you and
others and when starting downhill or merging, look uphill and yield. It is also
important to obey signs designating slow zones and intersecting areas. It is
recommended that all skiers and snowboarders share the slopes and always show
respect for others.
Has the introduction of helmets made any difference in terms of head
injury and fatalities in skiing and snowboarding?
Helmet utilization in the U.S. is increasing by about 5 percent per year for the
last several years. In the 2004/05, season the overall usage of helmets among
the general public (skiers and snowboarders) was estimated to be 33.2 percent.
It was higher among children nine and under at 66 percent; it was next highest
among those over 65, at 46 percent. Only 19 percent of entry level skiers and
snowboarders used a helmet versus advanced/expert at 45 percent. Among males,
35.2 percent used a helmet, and 30.4 percent of females wore a helmet.
According to Jasper Shealy, professor at the Rochester Institute of
Technology in Rochester, N.Y., who has studied ski related injuries for more
than 30 years, 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. The pattern of death seems to be affected by the use of a helmet.
Most fatalities are due to multiple causes or injuries. Approximately two-thirds
of those who die who do not use a helmet have as the first cause of death some
injury to the head. For those who die while wearing a helmet, only about
one-third have a head injury as the first cause of death. It seems that while
the use of a helmet may shift the distribution of the first cause of death, it
is not sufficient to reduce the overall rate of death. In incidents leading to
death, it appears that the severity of the incident simply overwhelms the
ability of the helmet to prevent death.
Is the number of ski injuries increasing?
The overall rate of reported skiing injuries has declined by 50 percent since
the early 1970s, according to Shealy. The once feared broken lower leg from
skiing is now a thing of the past, declining more than 95 percent since the
early 1970s. 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. To only look at the overall number, or rate of injuries,
does not tell the whole story. In research that was reported on at the
International Society for Skiing Safety Congress in May of 2003, it was noted
that in the last three to five years, the rate of serious knee injuries was
starting to decline; unfortunately the number of mid-shaft tibal fractures was
increasing after having declined dramatically from 1970 through the mid 1980s.
The reason for the decline in serious knee injuries is believed to be due to the
market penetration of the newer shorter skis. The reason for the increase in
mid-shaft tibial fractures appears to be due to a decline in the functional
properties of the ski-binding-boot systems.
Have snowboard injuries increased?
The rate of injury for snowboarding as of the 2000/01 season has increased to
6.97 from 3.37 per 1,000 visits from 10 years ago, according to Dr. Shealy.
Has the rate of some ski injuries changed?
The most significant upward trend in ski injuries since the early 1970s,
according to a study by the University of Vermont Department of Orthopedics, was
in ACL injuries, or injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament of the knees,
which crosses the knee at a diagonal angle underneath the kneecap. The increase
in serious knee injuries, especially ACL injuries, has reversed itself in the
last three to five years. This welcome decrease is on the order of 30 to 35
percent so far. We believe that this decrease is due to the recent introduction
of significantly shorter skis. Unfortunately, at the same time that knee
injuries are starting to decline, we are now seeing an increase in both
mid-shaft tibial fractures and injuries due to inadvertent releases, many of
which would be preventable if skiers were more attentive to taking their skis
into a qualified ski shop for an annual inspection and readjustment as needed.
Who gets fatally injured while skiing and snowboarding?
Most fatalities occur in the same population that engages in high-risk behavior.
Victims are predominantly male (85 percent) from their late teens to late 30s
(70 percent), according to Dr. Shealy. Less than 10 percent of fatally injured
skiers and snowboarders are under 10 or over 50 years of age, but more than 16
percent of all skiers and snowboarders are in these age groups. Most of those
fatally injured are usually above-average skiers and snowboarders who are going
at high rates of speed on the margins of intermediate trails. This is the same
population that suffers the majority of unintentional deaths from injury. For
example, in 1995 this population suffered 74 percent of fatal car accidents and
85 percent of all industrial accidents, Dr. Shealy reports. Males comprise about
60 percent of skiing participants, and more than 75 percent of snowboarding
Snowboarders don’t appear to be making the slopes less safe for their skiing
peers, either, says Dr. Shealy. A study presented at the Ninth International
Symposium on Skiing Trauma and Safety in 1993 indicated that 7.7 percent of all
ski injuries are the result of skiers running into skiers, while only 2.6
percent of snowboard accidents are caused this way.
What is being done to improve safety?
Skiers at NSAA member resorts (currently 325 alpine resorts) are given several
opportunities to learn how to ski safely. All ski areas endorse and are asked to
display the “Your Responsibility Code,” which admonishes skiers and snowboarders
to ski and ride within their ability, to watch for skiers downhill, to look
uphill before entering a trail, to move to the side of the trail when stopping,
use devices to help prevent runaway equipment, observe all posted signs and
warnings, have the ability to load and unload lifts, and to practice courteous
ski habits. Those who break the code are routinely stripped of their passes by
ski patrollers. The Smart Style Elements were added to resort safety materials
in 2004. Smart Style enforces a code of conduct in terrain parks. The elements
encourage participants to look for others before using the jumps, respect other
participants and to participate at their own level of skill.
Ski areas have undertaken several programs to increase ski safety. Those
programs range from establishing family ski areas to increasing the number of
monitors on the slopes. Alpine and snowboarding lessons are offered and
encouraged at ski areas. During the 2004/05 season, based on 115 of the nation’s
492 ski areas that responded to the NSAA Kottke National End of Season Survey,
24,467 ski lessons were given on average per responding resort. A total of 6,229
of these lessons were Level I (never ever). Additionally, a total of 5,775
snowboard lessons were given this year, of which 3,036 were Level I.
What do ski areas do to address the safety issue of skiing?
Mountain resorts expend tremendous energy and expense educating their guests
about skier and snowboarder safety. NSAA and its member areas officially endorse
the "Your Responsibility Code," the seven slope safety points. Below are some of
the many slope safety campaigns.
Lids on Kids Campaign
Lids on Kids www.lidsonkids.org debuted in August 2002 as a resource for
consumers to learn about helmet use in skiing and snowboarding. The site
contains FAQs about helmet use, fit and sizing information, general slope safety
information, related articles and games, and testimonials about helmet use from
well-known athletes, including US Ski Team members. The site has received nearly
2 million hits since it was created.The tagline, “A Helmet-It’s a Smart Idea,”
is printed on posters and promotional cards at resorts nationwide.
“Heads Up. You’re Responsible” Campaign,br> The National Ski
Areas Association (NSAA), along with the National Ski Patrol (NSP), the
Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA), and Association for Snowboard
Instructors (AASI), created a campaign to assist ski area operators nationwide
address the topic of slope safety education for guests. The initiative was
launched during the 1999/2000 season and is continuing strong. The objective of
the campaign is to attempt to further reduce the frequency of accidents and to
unify the industry to focus on and communicate a proactive, strong safety
message. We recognize there are inherent risks to skiing and snowboarding. It’s
important to keep the risks of skiing and snowboarding in perspective and
communicate how personal responsibility is key. Over the years, various slope
education themes have been used.
The theme of “Heads Up” has been chosen because people generally identify it
as a friendly reminder and as a short safety-related message. Also, it’s an easy
concept for ski areas to incorporate into their on-going, skier/snowboarder
educational programs, signage, etc. “Heads Up” can be used as a simple safety
reminder in a variety of ways, such as “Heads Up. Set the Example,” “Heads Up.
You’re Responsible” or “Heads Up. Know Your Limits.” The target audiences for
the campaign are guests, ski area employees and the media. The National Safety
Council supports the National Safety Initiative and the “Heads Up” campaign. To
learn more about it and additional components, log on www.nsaa.org and click on
NSAA and Burton Snowboards created the "Smart Style" Terrain Park Safety
initiative. This venture is a cooperative effort to continue to heighten the
awareness of the proper use of terrain parks at mountain resorts, while also
delivering a unified message that is clear, concise, and effective. The "Smart
Style" program includes three main messages; Look Before You Leap, Easy Style
It, and Respect Gets Respect. These messages encourage participants to scope
around jumps first, to be aware of their landing areas, to start with the basics
and to respect other participants.
NSAA launched a new consumer website: www.terrainparksafety.org in October 2004.
The site incorporates up-to-date information on freestyle terrain safety, and
encourages consumers to educate themselves about the use of terrain parks,
halfpipes and other freestyle areas at snowsports resorts. As the sport grows in
popularity, the elements of the site are meant to educate the consumer about
aspects of freestyle terrain.
THE NATIONAL SKI AREAS ASSOCIATION, LOCATED IN LAKEWOOD, COLO., IS A
TRADE ASSOCIATION FORMED IN 1962 FOR SKI AREA OWNERS AND OPERATORS NATIONWIDE."
[end of quote]
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
Conditioning for Skiing
Equipment and Technique
to Develop Balance on Skis
Turn Simplified The Final Skiing Skill:
pressure management Tactics for Terrains and Snow
Textures and Racing
Skiing Tips and Tales--a potpourri
for Developing Skiing Skills Children and Skiing
Age and Skiing
Gender & Skiing Culture
Skiing Ethics & Slope Survival
Environment Glossary Acknowledgements
SkiMyBest Website Contents
This "Slope Safety" page last modified 03/26/2010. Did you come here from a link on another website?
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Copyright © 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017. William R Jones.