How Often Are People Killed in Skiing and Snowboarding Accidents?

Every winter, millions of Americans bundle up to hit the slopes at their favorite local ski resort.   But while skiing and snowboarding are beloved winter pastimes – especially here in Utah, where they generate huge amounts of tourism revenue while employing about 18,000 people – they also have serious hazards.  Salt Lake City snowboarding accident lawyer Darwin Overson examines fatality statistics to find out just how dangerous these sports really are – and who is at greatest risk of being killed.

Are You More Likely to Be Killed by Skiing or Snowboarding?

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The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) is a trade association made up of more than 300 alpine resorts across the country.  Together, the 313 resorts belonging to the NSAA account for over 90% of all snowboarding and skiing visits in the United States.

The NSAA periodically publishes statistical reports on skiing and snowboarding safety, including injuries and fatalities associated with each sport.  These reports paint a detailed picture of the hazards for skiers and snowboarders.

According to an NSAA fact sheet released in 2012, about 42 people die per year on average in snowboarding and skiing accidents.  Since the ski season at most resorts stretches from late November to early April – roughly 135 days – that’s an annual average of one fatality about every three days.

While 42 fatalities may be the average, some seasons have been deadlier than others.  For example, in the 2012 report, the NSAA notes that 54 people – about 12 more than average – were killed in fatal skiing and snowboarding accidents during the 2011-2012 season.  As you can see in the image below, fatal accident data from the past decade shows that the 2007-2008 season had one of the highest number of deaths on record (53), with a low of 25 fatalities – less than half as many – during the 2012-2013 season.

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Source: National Ski Areas Association 2014 Fatality Fact Sheet

If you’re like most people, you’d probably assume the bulk of these fatalities were caused by snowboarding.  After all, snowboarding has always been marketed as an “extreme” sport for young people, while skiing hardly shares the same edgy reputation.

However, contrary to perceptions about skiing and snowboarding, it’s actually skiing which is the more dangerous activity – a subject we discussed in an earlier article you might have missed if you’re new to our legal blog.  Among the 54 fatalities reported during the 2011-2012 season, 39 (about 72%) were caused by skiing, compared to 12 (about 22%) that were caused by snowboarding.  (In the remaining three accidents, it was unknown whether the victim was snowboarding or skiing when the fatal injury occurred.)

Who Has the Highest Risk of Being Fatally Injured in a Snowboarding or Skiing Accident?

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As NSAA data indicates, wrongful death from skiing or snowboarding is statistically rare, considering the tens of millions of skiers and snowboarders who visit mountain slopes each season.  But any number of deaths is a tragedy – and certain demographics appear to be at higher risk.

Among the 54 total fatalities documented by the NSAA during the 2011-2012 season, 43 (about 80%) were male.  By comparison, only eight of the fatal accident victims were female (about 15%).

The size of the gender gap was almost identical in both sports.  Among the 39 skiing fatalities, 33 were male (about 85%) while six were female (about 15%).  Among the 12 snowboarding fatalities, 10 were male (about 83%) while two were female (about 17%).

Age is also a risk factor.  To quote the NSAA report, “Victims are predominantly male (85%) from their late teens to late 30s (70%)…  Less than 10% of fatally injured skiers and snowboarders are under 10 or over 50 years of age, but more than 16% of all skiers and snowboarders are in these age groups.”

Surprisingly, experienced snowboarders and skiers are actually more likely to be killed than beginners, perhaps due in part to attempting more hazardous speeds or maneuvers.  As the report notes, “Most of those fatally injured are above-average skiers and snowboarders who are going at high rates of speed on the margins of intermediate trails.”

Personal Injury Lawyer Handling Claims Against Snowbird, Deer Valley Resort, and More

There are more than a dozen ski resorts in Utah, most of which are located within an hour of Salt Lake City.  Some popular Utah ski resorts include:

  • Alta Ski Area (Alta)
  • Brighton Ski Resort (Brighton)
  • Cherry Peak Resort (Richmond)
  • Deer Valley Resort (Park City)
  • Nordic Valley Ski Resort (Eden)
  • Park City Mountain Resort (Park City)
  • Powder Mountain Resort (Eden)
  • Snowbasin Resort (Huntsville)
  • Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort (Snowbird)
  • Solitude Mountain Resort (Solitude)

Ski resort employees, such as ski lift operators and snowboarding instructors, have a duty of care toward guests and visitors.  When a ski resort employee carelessly neglects this duty and makes an avoidable error, he or she should be held accountable.  If you suffered a skiing or snowboarding injury at a ski resort in Utah, you may be able to get compensated for your medical bills and other expenses.  Overson Law can help.

Personal injury attorney Darwin Overson handles Snowbird snowboarding injury claims, Park City Mountain Resort skiing injury claims, Deer Valley Resort snowboarding accident claims, and more.  To find out if you have a personal injury claim against a Utah ski resort in a free legal consultation, call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 895-3143.

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