Why we injure ourselves skiing and how to avoid the dangers

Despite this skiing and snowboarding are enjoyed by many worldwide we know that there are inherent risks.  There have been a number of studies that have looked at the incidence and severity of ski and snowboarding injuries.

Ski and snow boarding injuries

Overall injury rate for skiers has been reported as 3 injuries per 1000 skier days[1][2]. According to the National Ski Areas Association in the USA[3], during 2002-2012 about 41.5 people have died skiing/snowboarding per year on average.  Serious injuries (paralysis, serious head, and other serious injuries) occur at the rate of about 44.7 per year.

Thankfully fatalities and serious injuries are in the minority.  In general skiers tend to sustain more knee injuries whereas snowboarders are more vulnerable to injuries of the upper limb.  Most injuries for both skiers and snowboarders occur either by falling down or loss of control during a jump, very few occur as a result of collision with other skiers or riders[4]. Research has demonstrated that the major causes of accidents are often excessive speed, excessive fatigue, technical errors,   bad weather conditions and alcohol abuse[5].

None of us want to be put off participating in snowsports as a result of these injury statistics.  What we should conclude is that the risk of injury can be significantly reduced by taking a few simple steps……

Know the skier responsibility code:

  1. Always stay in control.
  2. People ahead of you have the right of way.
  3. Stop in a safe place for you and others.
  4. Whenever starting downhill or merging, look uphill and give way.
  5. Observe signs and warnings, and keep off closed trails.
  6. Know how to use the lifts safely.

Prepare for your skiing:

  1. Get fit.
  2. Get your kit checked by an expert.
  3. Get lessons.

Be skiing smart:

  1. Don’t go out in bad weather.
  2. Don’t ski when fatigued.
  3. Don’t drink alcohol on the slopes!
  4. Don’t do that “one more run”!


  1. Johnson B, Ettlinger C, Shealy JE: Update on injury trends in alpine skiing. J ASTM Int 2009;17:11-22
  2. Davidson TM, Laliotis A: Alpine skiing injuries – A nine year study. West J Med 1996;164(4):310-314.
  3. Facts about skiing/snowboarding safety. National Ski Areas Association – NSAA Fact Sheet, 2011
  4. Stenroos A, Handolin L: Incidence of recreational alpine skiing and snowboarding injuries: Six years experience in the largest ski resort in Finland. Scand J Surg 2014;0:1-5
  5. Gaudio RM, Barbieri S, Feltracco P, Spaziani F, Alberti M, Delantone M, Trevisiol P, Righini F, Talarico A, Sanchioni R, Spagna A. Impact of alcohol consumption on winter sports-related injuries. Medicine, Science and the Law. 2010 Jul 1;50(3):122-5.
Rachael Lowe