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Ratio of On Piste to Off Piste injuries

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I could read through every thread in this category to try and obtain the info, but I'm too lazy.

I'm curious as to how many of the serious injuries shared on here happened whilst off piste and how many on piste.

I work for myself and can't really afford time off work through injury. I'm nowhere near good enough yet to even consider going off piste; but when and if I ever reach such a level, the inherent risk would be a major consideration. I appreciate that if you go through trees and steep rock strewn runs on powder, the risk is naturally greater. I'm just interested to know what percentage injures occur on the groomed slopes.
cheers
Awd
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@Awdbugga, Although it doesn't answer your question the biggest risk for you on piste is getting hit by somebody else. A lot of people feel safer off piste with less risk of collisions.
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Almost impossible to say, really. I’ve seen spectacular crashes off piste that have resulted in nothing more than bruised pride. I know of nasty injuries sustained by slipping getting off the transfer bus. My own three-months-off-work-unpaid fiasco was the result of a stupid fall in a snow dome.

FWIW when I’m skiing around trees and rocks I’m generally going pretty slowly and carefully. Not many of us ski off piste like they do in the movies.
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Very great majority of injuries happen on piste because that's where people are. When I think of my most recent injuries (a tib plateau and a fibula fracture) both were done on marked runs but neither had been groomed that day. Didn't really result in much time off work. Where am I most scared - blue groomers with lots of traffic because you can't control for all the other morons and kids are at just about the right height to totally take you out at the knees.
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Wot @cad99uk, said.

My most serious injuries were on carefully prepared and controlled race courses, my only surgery from a ridiculous off piste mishap.

Make of that what you will.

One of the joys of (e.g. Canadian) “elevator” powder is that you can drop off pretty much anything safely. Unless you hit a tree.
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I don't know where the European stats are. USA stats are easily available, but they don't have the on/off piste division, so can't answer your question.

Still, they're an interesting read. For example this.
The key take-away is that you're extremely safe at a US resort, but don't ride in areas which are closed (because they are not controlled or patrolled).
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We're talking about "additional" risk, on top of groomed slopes here. After all, you usually still ski on piste the rest of the time.

BTW, how does ski injury rate compare with the most well-researched baseline risk: driving around in one's day to day life?
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My one injury (to date) was on piste, a bit of blue where I was overconfident. However my hours on piste are significantly more than my hours off piste so the stats are skewed.
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www.snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=76965&highlight=

I do not think a ratio of on piste to off piste injuries would tell you much as most skiing is done on piste. Therby suggesting the on piste injuries would be much bigger than off piste due to man hours skiing. It is a bit like saying HSBC gets more complaints about banking than the Scottish Building society. They would do, as they have more accounts.

You need to find a denominator, to allow a fair comparison. Now the denominator for on piste skier days is probably available, but off piste skier days may be less obtainable as many would not buy a lift pass or even if they did how would you know if they were off piste or on piste to determine the denominator (obviously injuries off piste could be classified).

Loonies will go off piste regardless. Off piste guided injuries are perhaps more relevant, and these could probably provide a denominator. But then the numbers would be so small that it would probably not be statistically significant.
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@Awdbugga, ... you never know where the next accident is going to come from.
I had my worst injury in the same place as @Maireadoconnor, the snow centre.

I don't go off piste anymore so I have to run the gauntlet of the piste and as @Dave of the Marmottes says .... it can be very crowded with idiots and kidiwinx that will knock you down like skittles.

We need eyes in the back of our heads.
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The Nevis Range this year had snow all the way down to the car park. When I was there, at the end of the day, many crowds of people decided to ski this un-pisted section. I did not, and took the lift down. I saw many people under the lift skiing or snowboarding between trees, only to find they came unstuck when they came to a stream and a bridge with no boots to change into. Skiing can be a very bad idea when you do not know where you are going.

Snowboarding on the other hand, is more suited to changing between surfing and climbing rocks. The boots are more flexible and allow walking easier.
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Even if you do read through every thread, there is no reason to think snowHeads are representative of skiers in general!

I think all the injuries I can recall to various relatives and friends (broken leg/ankle/wrist; snapped ligament/tendon in knee/shoulder/finger; etc) have occurred on-piste - but as others have said, from many more on-piste miles than off.

Other factors come into play as well. Perhaps half the injuries have been to the less experienced, often from relatively low speeds falls, and some from equipment issues. Surprisingly few from the more experienced skiers, given that they will have covered a lot more and steeper terrain, including some off-piste. But that might also be because our off-piste tends to be more off-the sides-of-piste, and where others have been before, rather than more extreme stuff.
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@Awdbugga, You get injured if you fall over. Or twist funny. Or slip. Or land heavy. Or catch a tip or tail in deep snow or on a hidden rock or patch or turf. Or stupidly stick your pole onto or between your skis. Or stick your hand out wrongly. Or hit your head (usually on a Scottish drag lift!). Or get hit by some idiot child, snowboarder, skier, arrogant uncaring foreigner, pissed-up Brit idiot (delete at will). Get the idea?
Avalanche and terrain hazards aside, I'm not sure if there's any inherent injury difference on or off piste for a careful and prudent skier who skies within their technical competence with correct and correctly-set up equipment. Different injury likely causes to an extent (e.g. less people, deeper snow, no lift queues, less groomed terrain, more of the unknown) - but when it's your time, it's your time Sad
I used to think OP must be more dangerous. After being hit badly on an easy piste by an out of control idiot, and now with 2 not happy knees, it's much much more appealing. Mind you, that's still for me the side country, unpisted, etc runs: not had the chance to sample the full-on OP that I'd one day like to.
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It's pretty hard to be skiing off piste at the same sort of speed your average blue run hero is maching it on the piste so the kinetic energy in on piste crashes is higher.
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cad99uk wrote:
@Awdbugga, Although it doesn't answer your question the biggest risk for you on piste is getting hit by somebody else. A lot of people feel safer off piste with less risk of collisions.


In a 6 year Swiss study 72% of accidents were on-piste. Of all ski-related accidents, 8% are a result of a collision with another person with 7% a collision with a fixed object. 63% are simple falls involving no other person and 19% are resulting from jumps.

For snowboarding about 24% of accidents are collisions with people and 24% with fixed objects.

There's around 1 accident per 10,000 ski runs. That's about 500 ski days on the standard measure used.

So, the biggest risk isn't a collision, whether it's your fault or not. The perception that off-piste is safer due to a decrease in collisions is faulty as a result. Generally, we're quite bad at accurately assessing risk it turns out.

under a new name wrote:
My most serious injuries were on carefully prepared and controlled race courses, my only surgery from a ridiculous off piste mishap.


Indeed, you're around 100 times more likely to be injured on a race piste than normal as I read the data (for ski runs but not ski days)
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 Poster: A snowHead
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abc wrote:
... how does ski injury rate compare with the most well-researched baseline risk: driving around in one's day to day life?
Covered in the above reference. They had 40 ski-resort deaths across all the USA, and in the same period 37,800 Americans died in motor vehicle accidents. The difference isn't going to be quite so large if you factor "time at risk" into it, but that's a bit obvious irrespective.

Those of you who buy insurance may argue that you could compute the risk from the relative premiums, but I'm fairly sure that the risk is sufficiently low that they price it at on what the market will stand more than anything else.

In the US/ North America the on/off thing is minor, which is why I ride there. European off-piste feels objectively riskier (because it's not controlled or patrolled), but that risk too is manageable.
Riding trees, for example, is in my view remarkably safe, assuming you know how not to crash into them. If you don't ride slower. Tree wells are an objective risk, but one which good practice can mitigate.

And they're right about speed: powder is inherently slower and you need significantly more skill than the kid straight lining hard pack.
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@ise, was that only for Swiss resorts? I've generally found the standard of skiing in Switzerland to be pretty high and nor have I experienced overly busy pistes here. So I've never felt at risk from speeding out of control skiers on piste in Switzerland.

However I have experienced those conditions at certain times in other countries.
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Global skier-boarder accident and death rates (%) occur on a U-curve.

Beginners = very high.
Intermediates = medium.
Experts = low.
Extremists / Racers = very high.
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Think we are Experts = even higher
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Any figures you may be told = probably worthless if you know anything about probability theory. Just go ski, you might get hurt, you very very likely won't. Bit like walking down the road,

I did a day Cat Skiing in BC. They told us in detail about tree wells. Second run a skier fell in one, had to be rescued. All the warnings, yet still did it.

At the end of the day, it's your body, you know better than anyone what it can withstand, unless some moron hits you on on a piste! You can partly mitigate against that, but not entirely.
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@Awdbugga, it's a good idea to have income replacement insurance if time off work due to injury or sickness is likely to leave you out of pocket. I used to have this when I lived and worked in the UK as there's no way I'd have been able to live on SSP.
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Whitegold wrote:
Global skier-boarder accident and death rates (%) occur on a U-curve.

Beginners = very high.
Intermediates = medium.
Experts = low.
Extremists / Racers = very high.


Wrong
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Gämsbock wrote:
@ise, was that only for Swiss resorts? I've generally found the standard of skiing in Switzerland to be pretty high and nor have I experienced overly busy pistes here. So I've never felt at risk from speeding out of control skiers on piste in Switzerland.

However I have experienced those conditions at certain times in other countries.


Ski accidents are not common so you can expect to see some year on year fluctuations in numbers. In other countries with multi year studies to eliminate those fluctuations the figures are around the same, 8% of accidents in North America are skier collisions compared to 7% in Switzerland. Not a significant difference.
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Ski injury is 3 per 1000 skier days.
My observations from running a ski Injury clinic for the last fifteen years are:

More injured people from on piste simply because of numbers on piste

I believe from my observations and personal experience that the two most dangerous places on the mountain are the home run ( especially late in the day) and the 10 metres after you leave a chair lift.

A lot is very good skiers are injured through inattention ie they catch an edge on a really easy bit of piste because they have dropped their guard.

A large number of injuries are caused by conditions unfamiliar to the skier irrespective of where they are actually skiing eg ice, fresh snow.

Some of the nastiest o juries have been, as others have said, from an innocent skier who is hit at high speed by an out of control skier who is usually a teenager.

Schools ski racing for kids worries me- some are getting very serious knee injuries and i’ve reconstructed the ACL in a lot of children.

Rocks and trees feature very infrequently but lack of fitness is quite common.

I avoid skiing on piste as much as I can and usually take my young kids off piste just to avoid the hoards of others.

I’ll ski on piste when my OH had moaned enough that I never want to ski on piste. Last year having succumbed I skied a rather flat boring piste with her so started with some rapid short carved turns which after ten minutes put my back out.

I rest my case.
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Thinking through my short time with snowheads so far (6 bashes), and only counting the ones I know enough about to know where they happened... It comes out 50/50 on/off.

This information is obviously of limited use:D
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jjams82 wrote:
Thinking through my short time with snowheads so far (6 bashes), and only counting the ones I know enough about to know where they happened... It comes out 50/50 on/off.

This information is obviously of limited use:D


Actually it's extremely useful and actionable information Very Happy

It suggests that snowheads are more than averagely dangerous off-piste which informs a risk assessment saying they're to be avoided Happy
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ise wrote:
Gämsbock wrote:
@ise, was that only for Swiss resorts? I've generally found the standard of skiing in Switzerland to be pretty high and nor have I experienced overly busy pistes here. So I've never felt at risk from speeding out of control skiers on piste in Switzerland.

However I have experienced those conditions at certain times in other countries.


Ski accidents are not common so you can expect to see some year on year fluctuations in numbers. In other countries with multi year studies to eliminate those fluctuations the figures are around the same, 8% of accidents in North America are skier collisions compared to 7% in Switzerland. Not a significant difference.


Average risk on/off piste over the season isn't a terribly good predictor of the specific risk at a point in time though. I have definitely felt at high risk on piste on some home runs at busy times of season/day (e.g. St Anton, Ischgl, Val d'Isere, Meribel, Chamonix), because of the combination of the sheer concentration of skiers on piste, and that many are hurtling down out of control. Particularly applicable if the piste is icy. In such circumstances, I would often feel safer off-piste and away from the out-of-control-flying objects, even if the off-piste is tricky. However, such conditions probably only occur occasionally throughout the season, and so don't contribute greatly to the annual statistics. They aren't representative of average risk but they are relevant for the acute risk.
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ise wrote:

Actually it's extremely useful and actionable information Very Happy

It suggests that snowheads are more than averagely dangerous off-piste which informs a risk assessment saying they're to be avoided Happy


Or that we're more gnarly than most...

(Well, some... I'm in my off piste data set and am most definitely am NOT:D)
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Gämsbock wrote:

Average risk on/off piste over the season isn't a terribly good predictor of the specific risk at a point in time though.


That's not a reasonable conclusion really, the recorded instances and accident are both a good and only predictor.

Gämsbock wrote:
I have definitely felt at high risk on piste on some home runs at busy times of season/day (e.g. St Anton, Ischgl, Val d'Isere, Meribel, Chamonix), because of the combination of the sheer concentration of skiers on piste, and that many are hurtling down out of control. Particularly applicable if the piste is icy. In such circumstances, I would often feel safer off-piste and away from the out-of-control-flying objects, even if the off-piste is tricky. However, such conditions probably only occur occasionally throughout the season, and so don't contribute greatly to the annual statistics. They aren't representative of average risk but they are relevant for the acute risk.


These are all real responses but all very subjective. Still, once you feel you're in a risky situation then it's a hard feeling to shake off.

This is why I observed that generally, people aren't very good at figuring out what the level of risk is. Your perception of risk is being driven by a number of factors with an availability heuristic likely being the most strong - you're able to recall incidents either first hand or anecdotally which tell you the frequency is higher than it actually is. In as much as it can be objectified risk is a function of incidence and consequence. In this instance, the rational answer is that collisions are rare and that when they do occur most injuries are not serious (i.e. not life threatening or life changing).

There's a social factor where, as a group, the actual incidence and consequence of collisions can be overestimated. In pointing out that collisions are rare I'm contradicting something that was presented as a fact for example.

jjams82 wrote:

Or that we're more gnarly than most...


I appreciate like my remark that is tongue in cheek but it highlights where faulty risk assessment leads. We're not cut out to operate at a high tempo all the time and we can't really operate in high-risk situations and continue to make good judgments. The reason is that we then experience a diminishing response to actual risk, there's a desensitisation to objective risk.

When I'm in the mountains, summer or winter, I assume that the chances of an accident are really pretty low because they are. It would be irrational to participate if that weren't the case.
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Accepting that the plural of “anecdote” is not “data”...

I estimate my skiing (and that of my immediate family and groups of friends I generally ski with) is about 75% off piste, 24% on piste and 1% Park. Of the 5 hospitalisation events that I can recall amongst us all:
3 on piste
1 tripping over the curb (sober!)
1 in the park

Also a couple of hypothermia- induced trips to the rescue hut, but I’m not counting that as a skiing injury.

None off piste, and non involving collisions. That’s over the past decade, and I’d very approximately guess 2000 skier days.
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I once calculated in a finger in the air, back of a fag packet, glass of wine consuming kind of way that skiing off piste roughly doubled your chances of dying on any particular day. But taking the population as a whole the chances of any one person dying on a given day are miniscule so the doubling of a miniscule number is still miniscule - read 'The Tiger that Isn't' - Blastland & Dilnot. I also remember reading years ago that skiing was as dangerous as playing table-tennis in terms of participants consulting a Doctor due to injury - the dangers of neither skiing, playing table-tennis or any engaging in any other physical activity are almost certainly greater.
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For me, there are common risks, but many risks are different:

On-Piste Risks:
- Other people are by far the biggest hazard. You will find a lot more people who can't ski for toffee on the piste, than off. Other people will hit you, or cause you to try and avoid them creating your own crash. Off piste, there's less people in general, and the people who are there will tend to be experienced skiers.

- Generally on piste, I think we all assume a greater level of consistency in the snow. We'll ski faster and assume that the piste is good. Off-piste, we'll take it a section at a time, being much more cautious about what might lie ahead.

- The piste is harder, on the whole. In terms of impact injuries, the piste simply has a lot more opportunity to hit something hard at speed. Off piste is frequently a lot softer to land on.

- The alertness of yourselves and others will often just be subconsciously a bit less than if you were off-piste. Off-piste people are very 'on it', but tend to chill on the piste a little more. This kinda ties in with my second point, but I find when I'm skiing off-piste I, and those around me, are just far more on the ball with exactly what we ski, where we ski, how we ski, spacings between us, where we stop, and where we decide that it's just not worth it and use the piste instead.

Off-Piste Risks:

- Obviously the chance of skiing into a rock, tree, massive hole, lump of ice etc etc is basically increased as these 'features' don't tend to be included on the piste.

- Off-piste areas are generally not patrolled or may not even be visited by other skiers in the same day, so if you are injured you may not be rescued for a long time.

- Pistes are reviewed in the morning before opening, and closed if unsuitable for use. There is no such process for off-piste skiing, you have to rely on your own assessment of conditions and that of the guide.

- The terrain is much less predictable, which can lead to unexpected falls, etc. Some of the serious muscle / ACL / etc injuries that happen off piste come from trying to correct an error then hitting a jump or a drop mid-correction and being off your proper stance.

- The general risk of triggering and/or being hit by avalanche is substantially increased.

- You are more reliant on the knowledge and experience of the guide, whom you may have never met before! There are no fences, piste markers or danger signs off piste, you will just fall to your death without warning. Loss of visibility off piste can also be extremely bad especially if you don't have somebody completely familiar with the area on your side, whereas at least on piste you can normally just stay between the poles until you find a lift.

- To be fair this list can go on and on

In Summary:

I personally think that the risks presented off-piste are higher in severity, but lower in likelihood. They're lower in likelihood, since nature can in many ways be predicted more accurately than people can, and because when skiing off piste it is more likely that you know what you are doing, and whilst doing it, you're much more alert and flexible to the changing conditions.

Personally I prefer skiing in a higher-severity, lower-likelihood place than the other way around. I'd prefer to run the risk of a very severe accident, but apply my own controls to prevent it from happening; than be in an environment where I can do everything right but be at a much greater risk of some idiot wiping me out because they thought they were exempt from needing lessons.
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dp wrote:
For me, there are common risks, but many risks are different:

On-Piste Risks:
- Other people are by far the biggest hazard.


Objectively this is not true. Over 90% of all piste accidents do not involve any other person. Even 50% of collisions don't involve another person.



It's quite fun skiing Smile you get an impression reading this forum that it's not - it seems to be viewed as a hostile environment from the booking process through to hitting the slopes. I'd prefer there wasn't anybody on the slope either but it's only age-related misanthropy, they're not actually trying to kill me Very Happy
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@ise, out of interest where did you get those statistics from?

Insurance company is possibly not a valid source - if you tell them another person was involved, they'll want to know why you didn't get their details. If you say it happened all on your own, there's no dispute to be had over who's insurance pays.
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dp wrote:
@ise, out of interest where did you get those statistics from?

See link above: "... Roughly 7 percent of all incidents involve collisions with another person, and this rate has generally held steady since 1980."

I'd say that the perspective on this site is probably related to the demographic, who apparently can't read wink
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Thanks all. Interesting feedback. Fascinated to read the comments from @Jonathan Bell. If anyone should know, he should.

I've only been on one skiing trip so far (the last BB), but witnessed two incidents. Both with fellow skiers being taken out by other skiers from behind.

From the comments above I certainly wouldn't rule out having a crack at off piste, if I ever get good enough at skiing.

Thanks again to all who contributed.


Last edited by You'll need to Register first of course. on Wed 25-07-18 15:57; edited 1 time in total
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@philwig, ah... but there is a clear difference between a "collision with another person" and an accident "involving another person".

If you swerve to miss a snowboarder sat in the middle of the piste (for example) and stack it on your own terms, it's not a collision but it's still an accident caused in part by somebody else's behaviour.
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My injury was most definitely just me and my fault. Off the top of my head Snowheads that have crocked themselves the overwhelming majority have done so on their own terms.
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ise wrote:
Gämsbock wrote:

Average risk on/off piste over the season isn't a terribly good predictor of the specific risk at a point in time though.


That's not a reasonable conclusion really, the recorded instances and accident are both a good and only predictor.


@ise, I'm not quite sure I follow. The data you've quoted is from a country where I've never personally been concerned about collision risk on-piste. As far as i understand, you are assuming that risk of an accident follows a uniform distribution, with an accident being equally like at any point in time throughout the season, and, on that basis, off-piste is more risky than on-piste. I am unconvinced by that assumption. On an empty piste the probability of a collision is zero. On a piste with 500 people in a 100m stretch, the probability might still be small, but it's no longer zero. Add low average skill level, and icy conditions, and it increases further (even if, still small). In this situation it's clear to me that the risk of a collision on-piste has increased. Is it actually now riskier than being off-piste? That I don't know. I don't agree that seasonal average data is predictive of specific timepoints though. It's a shame the data isn't more readily available - the resorts must know it based on number of skiers through the gates/number of incidents.

ise wrote:

When I'm in the mountains, summer or winter, I assume that the chances of an accident are really pretty low because they are. It would be irrational to participate if that weren't the case.


I'm not actually arguing that off-piste is generally safer than on-piste. Apart from anything else, I haven't seen any data to back that up one way or the other. Anecdotally, I sit here currently recovering from an injury obtained off-piste, and I've not been injured on piste. I suspect that personally, I am more likely to be injured off-piste, because that represents more of a challenge to me (unless I start race training!). On-piste I am cautious (give others a wide berth, avoid really busy resorts/pistes) but nevertheless confident, and will ski as fast as I think is safe, rarely fall over and can turn/react quickly to changing circumstances. But then maybe that thought process is as much as a heurestic trap as me feeling that I am safer skiing off-piste at moderate speed in reasonable conditions than trying to navigate a crowded home run littered with bodies and out of control intermidiots? I certainly don't disagree with you that skiing is fundamenally pretty safe and accidents pretty rare.
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dp wrote:
@ise, out of interest where did you get those statistics from?

Insurance company is possibly not a valid source - if you tell them another person was involved, they'll want to know why you didn't get their details. If you say it happened all on your own, there's no dispute to be had over who's insurance pays.


I receive a lot of data from different sources about accidents in the mountains. I also receive a lot of papers and studies on the same.
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