Thursday, April 17, 2008

Why all the dead skiers?

Colorado ski resorts set a record this season for deaths on the slopes at 17. Of course, people are falling all over themselves to explain this dramatic increase (italics indicate sarcasm).

In fact, this is probably not a trend, just a statistical anomaly caused by the small amount of data. But those looking for a cause are pointing towards groomed slopes, saying they cause skiers to ski too fast. Here is a paragraph from the Denver Post story:

Of the record 17 fatal ski accidents this season in Colorado, nine involved skiers hitting trees that flank groomed slopes. Of those nine, seven were wearing helmets. Four more deaths followed bad falls on groomed slopes.

Okay, so here's my question: Why are they blaming groomed slopes and not helmets?

7 of 9 deaths on these slopes involved skiers wearing helmets. I don't know the percentage of skiers wearing helmets, but I'm sure it's below 70%, probably closer to 1/3. Could it be that skiers wearing helmets feel invincible and therefore ski recklessly? Does this make any less sense than the argument that groomed slopes make skiers go faster? I actually doubt either of these is to blame, since there is no trend of increased deaths of helmeted skiers, or of skiers on groomed slopes. But why blame one and not the other?

If wonder what the Freakonomics guys would say about this!

1 comment:

ClaireWalter said...

I won't even speculate on the possible link between helmets, grooming and fatalities, but I would point out that this is shaping up to be a record season for Colorado ski areas, even though November and even December were not heavy-snow months. More skiers/snowboarders = more accidents = more fatilities. And oh yes, = more helmets.