Look before You Ski

The Evening Standard (London, England), March 7, 2003 | Go to article overview

Look before You Ski


LAST Sunday, Robert Wills, a 31-year-old scaffolder from Plymouth, collided with Richard Henrichs, a 56-year-old advertising salesman from Illinois, on a nursery slope in Breckenridge, Colorado. After catapulting into a tree, Mr Henrichs was taken to hospital, where he died of head injuries. Mr Wills was arrested and held in jail on $20,000 bail, pending possible charges of criminally negligent homicide or manslaughter. If he is prosecuted, he may have to stay in the US for a year before his trial.

A nightmare holiday, but how easily could it happen to you? The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), which represents 90 per cent of US resorts, claims that "skiing is no more dangerous than other high-energy sports, and less so than some common activities".

Statistics confirm this, with 45 deaths out of 10.7 million snow users in 2001-2, compared with 91 out of 1.6 million recreational scuba divers in 2000 (last available figures). So you are 13 times more likely to die diving than skiing.

Even in a fatal accident, litigation only follows if there is a reliable eye witness - often not the case - but everyone should be aware of dangers and responsibilities. As the NSAA puts it: "They [skiing and riding] involve some inherent risk, but in some measure it is that risk that entices most skiers and riders to pursue the sport." The key element in that risk is speed.

Confident recreational skiers cruise at 30-35mph, aggressive young males reach 40mph.

Early reports suggest that Robert Wills may have been skiing recklessly fast, as the accident occurred at a junction where beginners would be floundering in his path. …

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