Last week a friend told me she is afraid to have her children ski or snowboard because she thinks they are dangerous sports. I have heard others say this too. Skiing and snowboarding are no more dangerous than other high-energy sports and they are less risky than many common daily activities. Here are the nitty-gritty numbers on how safe skiing and snowboarding actually are.
One way an injury rate is factored is by a IPTSD- Injury Per Thousand Skier Days. This number is derived by dividing the injury to the total number of days and multiplying it by 1000. Right now the average injury rate for alpine skiing is 3 injuries for every 1000 skiers and snowboarding is 5 out of 1000 participants.
This means there is a .3% chance of injury when skiing and a .5% chance of injury when snowboarding. Snow sport deaths and head injuries are rare enough that they make big news when they happen. We can name a couple of celebrities who have been injured or died when skiing but the fatality rate for skiing and snowboarding is extremely low. Here in the US in the 2009/2010 ski season, the fatality rate was .64 for every million skier/snowboarder days.
Last season there were 38 skiing/snowboarding fatalities. To put this number in perspective, last year there were over 900 cycling deaths and 3300 drownings in the United States.
Interestingly, snowboarding has significantly fewer fatalities each year than skiing: 34 per cent lower. Of the 38 skiing/snowboarding fatalities, 25 of the deaths were skiers (18 male/7 female) and 13 deaths were snowboarders (12 male/1 female). Collision is responsible for 90 per cent of those deaths and 60% of the collision deaths are from colliding with trees. Collisions with other people make up 10% of fatalities.
The best way to avoid a collision is to follow the steps of the National Ski Association’s Your Responsibility Code including:
• Always stay in control.
• People ahead of you have the right of way.
• Stop in a safe place for you and others.
• Whenever starting downhill or merging, look uphill and yield.
• Use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
• Observe signs and warnings, and keep off closed trails.
• Know how to use the lifts safely.
The old adage "Safety First" is especially true when it comes to snowboarding/skiing. Here are a few tips to reduce your chance of injury when you are on the slopes.
• Stop skiing when you get tired. Statistically, most accidents happen right after lunch and on the last few runs of the day when people are tired.
• Drink plenty of fluids. Studies show that most skiers are dehydrated, though they often don't realize it because of the cold weather. Dehydration has a measurable effect on your ability to ski or board well.
• Wear a helmet. While helmets have their limitations, particularly in crashes at speeds in excess of 14 miles per hour, they can reduce the risk of serious injury.
• Know and follow Your Responsibility Code. The Code offers seven tips for safe skiing and riding, and is printed on every trail map.
• Be aware of changing snow and weather conditions, as well as changes in conditions from the upper part of the mountain to the lower part of the mountain. Ski or ride in a safe manner according to the conditions.
• Slow down as you approach the base of the lift, or in areas designated "Slow Skiing" zones. These areas are typically crowded with beginner skiers
• Use equipment that is the right size for you.
It's a snowmama's job to teach her children to be safety conscious. Here is to many more days of happy, safe skiing/riding.
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The views expressed on Snowmamas are those of the individual authors, who are independent contractors of Park City Mountain Resort, and may not be factually accurate. These views are not intended to reflect the opinions of Park City Mountain Resort, its owners, its management or its employees. Snowmamas' authors have or will receive a paid trip to Park City Mountain Resort or will receive other compensation for their participation as an author.