How safe is skiing? It’s a question many people ask. The most high-profile in recent years has been the life-threatening head injury sustained by Michael Schumacher in 2013. No wonder ski safety is at the top of the wintersports agenda.
So – is skiing an exceptionally dangerous sport? And what measures can you take to increase your ski safety? Here we’ve outlined 10 key factors to consider.
1. The rate of skiing fatalities is relatively low
Every skiing fatality is a grim event. But despite terrible sequences of accidents like that of December 26-29, the overall rate of fatal ski accidents is not high. Statistics from America’s National Ski Areas Association for 2011-12 showed that the fatality rate was 1.06 per million skier days. By way of comparison, the fatality rate for Australian scuba divers, according to a study published in 2010 is 7 per million dives – seven times higher.
2. The chance of injury is lower than in a game of netball
According to skinjury.com – published by Dr Mike Langram, a GP and ski patrol doctor at CairnGorm Mountain in Scotland – the latest injury rate for skiers is 2.38 injuries per 1,000 skier days. Research by the respected Medecins de Montagne in France puts the figure at roughly 3 injuries per 1,000 skier days.
Finding comparable modern data for other sports isn’t easy. But here’s one interesting example from 1998. In a study of sporting injuries amongst 6-15 year olds in New Zealand, it was found that young netball players sustained 13 injuries per 1,000 player hours. Of course, an hour of school sport doesn’t equate to the average skiing day – but it’s probably not far off, given how much sitting about on chairlifts we do.
In another study, “Injuries in Recreational Adult Fitness Activities”, published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in 1993, the rate of skiing injury per 1000 hours was compared with other sports. The rate for skiing was 8 – higher than tennis (5) but lower than running (11), squash (14) and rugby (30).
Snowboarding carries a greater risk of injury than skiing. According to ski-injury.com, the rate of injury for boarders at 5.31 per 1000 snowboarding days – that’s about double the injury rate for skiers.