Compared to rugby or other contact sports, recreational skiing or snowboarding is a safe pastime, but accidents do happen. No one - not even an experienced instructor or mountain guide - is immune to injury, often through no fault of their own.
On piste, beginners and intermediates who have yet to perfect their technique are at greater risk. Crowded slopes at peak holiday times and adverse weather conditions raise the risk of a collision that can bring a holiday to an abrupt and painful end.
Off-piste, a hidden rock or snagged tree root can result in an awkward, unexpected fall. The danger of avalanche is ever present.
Thin snow cover or icy conditions, lack of basic fitness, alcohol abuse, and skiing or riding beyond your capabilities in poor light or when tired can all be contributing factors to an accident.
Injuries can be caused by:
- Simple or major falls
- Awkward landings on piste or in park
- Collisions with other skiers or boarders
- Hitting a tree, rock, pylon or guard rail
- Falling from or being hit by a ski lift
Thanks largely to advances in boot and binding technology, the volume of leg injuries for skiers has slowly declined in recent years. However, incorrectly adjusted bindings in relation to weight, age, height, and ability remain the most prevalent cause of injuries.
Skiers are inevitably prone to knee injuries, while snowboarders are more likely to damage wrists and ankles. Other winter sports like tobogganing or ice skating can result in an accident.
Those most at risk tend to be beginners and inexperienced intermediates venturing ambitiously on to steeper terrain that they lack the skills to negotiate safely. Older skiers and riders also suffer an increased risk of injury.