7 NOT So Surprising Facts about Ski Injuries and Deaths

skiing does carry real risks
Skiing Does Carry Real Risks
This is not my favorite topic to write about, but let’s be clear and honest about this, moving fast with minimal protection can lead to injury. Unofficial Networks summarizes a Denver Post article entitled Colorado skiers die on groomed, blue runs after hitting trees. The Unofficial Networks article is just a set of bullet points summarizing the article and the real interesting stuff is in the comments.

Still, I am not shocked by the Denver post article especially this bit:

Those who died on Colorado slopes ranged from a local doctor to a snowboard instructor to a paraplegic using a sit ski. More than 80 percent were men. The youngest two were 11; the oldest, 73. Just more than 60 percent were out-of-state visitors.

If those who died had anything in common, it was catching an edge or losing control just long enough to crash into a tree on the side of a trail. [emphasis added]

“People don’t want to hear it, but it’s really the luck of the draw. It’s an experienced skier and a perfect storm of events or one bad moment of judgment,” said Joanne Richardson, the former coroner for Summit County, where four ski areas account for close to 4 million skier visits a season. “In my experience, deaths are rare, but serious injuries are not. The mountains don’t want to tell you how many people are injured. I was listening to the scanner last year and just said, ‘Wow.’ “

This is something that I have noticed.

Many of the deaths I read about are competent skiers on runs well within their abilities, and almost always they hit a tree or other obstacle that is obvious. Like the article I believe the cause is usually skier catching an edge or otherwise going out of control at the worst possible moment, there is a reason they use the phrase perfect storm. Those types of accidents are nearly impossible to prevent, edge catches happen and bumps absent an hour earlier and gone in the next hour will back seat (i.e. put you out of control) you. What disturbs me about the Denver Post article is the in-bounds avalanche deaths and to a bit lesser of an extent in-bounds tree well deaths. Is that not a part of the deal? Stay in-bounds and the resort is responsible for making sure avalanches do not occur in bounds? What is next, we need to kit up for avalanches while staying in-bounds?

The bits about helmets only being able to deal with light impacts, well of course. My ski helmet is harder and more protective than my bike helmet but the Unofficial Network comment stream brings up some good points, namely, the fact the helmets can only be so heavy, get any heavier with the helmets than helmet wearing rates decrease and they become a contributor to injury themselves.

If you want perfect safety the solution is simple, visit your local video arcade and ride the ski simulator, of course, you have to survive leaving your house and the ride to the arcade.

Good Stuff!


  1. John,

    Thanks for pointing that FB page out. I need to think that through a bit. Ms. Crummy raises some good points, but in general I take this to be another annual staple of the Colorado press.

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