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Snowboarding and skiing are counted as high risk sports, and for good reason. Whether it's a fall off a hidden chasm/precipice, or being caught in a tree well, or simply a high speed collision with a tree or another skier, there's plenty of reasons to be cautious. Such sports are also incredibly fun, and I for one, would never give up snowboarding unless I was physically unable to continue for whatever reason.

It did get me wondering though, exactly HOW risky are such sports are. Earlier, I asked about the fatality rate for various forms of transport per unit of time, and it turns out the car for example has a fatality rate of about 125 per billion passenger hours.

Fatalities per billion skiing hours then would be a very interesting metric to compare against the car. Same for snowboarding if possible.

Can we even approach a figure for this?

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    @ThomasMarkov: Originally posted at the Sports Stackexchange, but they closed it, and said it would be okay to post it here. Where do you recommend I post it?
    – Dan W
    Commented Mar 30 at 21:16
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    The above comment was originally posted when this question was over at fitness. I’ve migrated it here based on this meta. Commented Mar 30 at 23:40

1 Answer 1

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There are a couple of papers, for which the abstract gives you fatality rates for ski slopes in a pretty obvious manner, I don't think these distinguish between snowboarding and skiing, though ref 2. will mostly be for skiers as snowboarding wasn't so big then:

  1. Ruedl G, Bilek H, Ebner H, Gabl K, Kopp M, Burtscher M. Fatalities on Austrian ski slopes during a 5-year period. Wilderness Environ Med. 2011 Dec;22(4):326-8. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wem.2011.06.008. Epub 2011 Oct 7. PMID: 21982753.

  2. Morrow PL, McQuillen EN, Eaton LA Jr, Bernstein CJ. Downhill ski fatalities: the Vermont experience. J Trauma. 1988 Jan;28(1):95-100. doi: https://doi.org/10.1097/00005373-198801000-00014. Erratum in: J Trauma 1988 Apr;28(4):561. PMID: 3370085.

  3. Posch M, Burtscher J, Ruedl G, Pocecco E, Burtscher M. Unchanged Fatality Rate on Austrian Ski Slopes during the COVID-19 Lockdown. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Jun 24;19(13):7771. doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19137771. PMID: 35805425; PMCID: PMC9265540.

Which indicate:

An overall incidence of 0.79 deaths per million skier days was calculated.

and

one death per 1.5 million skier-days

and

Still, the fatality rate (6.5 deaths/10 million skier days) was not different when compared to any of the seasons from 2011/12 to 2019/20

respectively.

I suspect that snowboarding is fairly dangerous as there seems to be a fatality rate for snowboarding of about 2% of accidents, so quite high.

For instance, this paper:

  1. Hasler RM, Baschera D, Taugwalder D, Exadaktylos AK, Raabe A. Cohort Study on the Association Between Helmet Use and Traumatic Brain Injury in Snowboarders From a Swiss Tertiary Trauma Center. World Neurosurg. 2015 Sep;84(3):805-12. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wneu.2015.05.016. Epub 2015 May 21. PMID: 26004699.

indicates:

Of 691 injured snowboarders evaluated, 117 (17%) suffered TBI. Sixty-six percent were men (median age, 23 years). Two percent of accidents were fatal. Ninety-two percent of patients sustained minor, 1% moderate, and 7% severe TBI according to the Glasgow coma scale.

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    Interesting info, but how many hours make up the aforementioned "skier day"? Some skiers may only manage an hour or two, while others could ski for maybe 10 hours or more. Perhaps this information was not collected.
    – Dan W
    Commented Mar 31 at 11:40
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    @Dan W Here is where error bars come in. A skiier would know better than I what is a likely average no of hrs spent skiing per day, and what the spread around that average is, but here is my guess, based on ice-skating, hiking, and tennis -- all energetic and obsessive sports: Average: 4 hrs per day; one sigma range, 2 to 6 hours per day. Numbers are estimates for recreational activity, not for those in training for major competitions or people who teach. Backcountry distance skiing )i.e., with a pack and camping out), average and high probably larger.
    – ab2
    Commented Mar 31 at 18:21
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    @ab2 - Under that assumption, the maths is: (0.79 + 0.6666 + 0.65) / 3 * 1000 / 4 = 175.55 fatalities per billion hours (for skiing). That's only 40% more dangerous than travelling by car. Travelling by foot is actually more dangerous at 220 deaths per billion hours. Interesting stat for comparing to such an extreme (or semi-extreme) sport!
    – Dan W
    Commented Mar 31 at 20:16
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    @DanW Where'd you get the the statistic on walking - I wonder if that is an all-cause statistic, i.e. deaths not as a result of walking necessarily, but hit by a car, heart attack, etc.
    – bob1
    Commented Mar 31 at 22:23
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    @DanW I think you are quite right about the stat having per-capita baked in - I was overthinking it. The article that ReSTARTS got that data from I can't find unfortunately. Can J Pub Health article has much lower rates for pedestrianism in British Columbia, but not per-hour rates only per km and per trip. Pretty much all the articles were traffic-related injury/death - so it's not the walking per se.
    – bob1
    Commented Apr 1 at 7:50

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