There has been a decrease in the number of injuries suffered by skiers. This trend has been attributed to the increased use in helmets and improvements in equipment. Yet the average number of ski related deaths have remained constant. Researchers say the nature of the fatal crashes makes it unlikely the deaths can be eliminated altogether.
According to the National Ski Areas Association, 25 skiers and 13 snowboarders died during the 2009-10 season out of 59.8 million skier/snowboarder days.
“It’s a rare event and it looks to me, based on our research, that this is something that is going to be very difficult to address because the deaths primarily are due to collisions with fixed objects, where somebody is going at a relatively high rate of speed,” said Jasper Shealy, a professor emeritus at the Rochester Institute of Technology who has studied skiing and snowboarding injuries for 40 years.
Typically slope deaths involve males in their teens to late 40s who are intermediate or better skiers, wearing a helmet, and traveling at a high rate of speed when they lose control. Of the 38 who died last season, 30 were males.
Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association, cautions that the best way to avoid injury on the slopes is to wear a helmet, ski or ride in control, be able to avoid objects and other skiers and snowboarders, and never test the effectiveness of the helmet.