Catastrophic Ski/Snowboard Related Injuries Per Year At U.S. Ski Resorts

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Timber Ridge Ski Area, 2014:  13-year-old boy snowboarder wearing a helmet hit his head and lost consciousness for a few seconds, back board rescue as a precaution. Image:

According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), 45 catastrophic injuries* occurred at U.S. ski areas during the 2015-16 season, which is slightly below the ski industry’s 10-year average of 49 catastrophic injuries per 56.4 million skier visits occurring at ski areas in the United States per year.

*Catastrophic injuries include forms of paralysis, broken necks or broken backs, and life-altering severe head injuries.


Who is getting injured?

  • 42 were male and 3 female
  • Mostly Skiers
  • Mostly wearing Helmets
Mountain Safety, Image: Sun Valley Resort

How are they getting injured?

  • Collision with trees or other stationary objects
  • Simple Falls & Major Falls
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries(TBI) & Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Collisions accidents with other skiers or snowboarders accounts for only 6.4 percent of reported accidents
  • Not on chairlifts:

“There is no transportation system as safely operated, with so few injuries and fatalities, as the uphill transportation provided by chairlifts at ski resorts in the U.S. To put things in perspective, a passenger is five times more likely to suffer a fatality riding an elevator than a ski lift, and eight times more likely to suffer a fatality riding in a car than on a ski lift.” -NSAA response to a 2016 Outside Magazine article “Is Your Local Chairlift a Death Trap?”

In the 2015/16 ski season skiers were injured catastrophically almost twice as much as snowboarders at resorts in the U.S. Yet, ski participants are almost three quarters of the total amount of participants while snowboarders make up just over a quarter of participants.

“nearly twice as many of those catastrophically injured were skiers compared to snowboarders (62 percent skiers/38 percent snowboarders).”- said NSAA

Of the 8.4 million ski resort participants,

74% of users are skiers and 26% of users of snowboarders.


Helmet use is on the rise in the U.S.

In the last couple of decades helmet use by children and adults has skyrocketed.

Percentage of ski and snowboard participants per year that wear helmets:

2002/03 : 25%

2011/12: 67%

2015/16: 80%

Out of the 45 individuals catastrophically injured this year: 65% wore helmets

29 were wearing helmets while 15 were not helmeted

“According to Dr. Shealy, who has studied ski related injuries for more than 30 years, recent research has shown that the use of helmet reduces the incidence of any head injury by 30 to 50 percent, but that the decrease in head injuries is generally limited to the less serious injuries. There has been no significant reduction in fatalities over the past nine seasons even as the use of helmets overall has increased. This trend emphasizes the importance of not increasing risk-taking behavior simply because you are wearing a helmet. Skiing and riding in control is essential in improving slope safety and reducing fatalities.”-NSAA Facts About Skiing and Snowboarding Safety and Dr. Jasper Shealy, professor emeritus at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y., who has studied ski related injuries for more than 30 years

“Helmets Save Lives of Skiers and Snowboarders

Johns Hopkins-led study debunks beliefs that safety gear promotes riskier athletic behavior

Release Date: November 12, 2012

“The use of helmets by skiers and snowboarders decreases the risk and severity of head injuries and saves lives, new Johns Hopkins-led research suggests. The findings debunk long-held beliefs by some that the use of helmets gives athletes a false sense of security and promotes dangerous behavior that might increase injuries…There really is a great case to be made for wearing helmets,” says Adil H. Haider, M.D., M.P.H . “By increasing awareness and giving people scientific proof, we hope behavior changes will follow.”

“..head injuries among winter sports enthusiasts lead to hospitalization, death or long-term disability, and contribute to increased health care spending. Head injuries are the chief cause of death among skiers and snowboarders… Analysis showed that helmets are lifesavers and do not increase the risk of injury.”

” some skiers have long argued that wearing a helmet on the slopes lowers visibility, hampers the ability to hear what is going on around them and encourages risky behavior, because they feel invincible. Some skiers have also suggested that wearing a helmet increases the torque and whiplash felt when a skier does go down, making neck and cervical spine injury more likely… These are all just excuses,” Haider says. “Our research shows none of those theories hold water.”

John-Hopkins Study

Image: article from



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