Fatalities on Austrian ski slopes during a 5-year period

Wilderness Environ Med. 2011 Dec;22(4):326-8. doi: 10.1016/j.wem.2011.06.008. Epub 2011 Oct 7.


Background: While the mean injury rate from snow sports in Austria is low (less than 2 injuries per 1000 skier days), there is little information about fatalities on Austrian ski slopes.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate incidence and causes of fatalities among recreational skiers and snowboarders over a 5-season period on Austrian ski slopes.

Methods: All traumatic and nontraumatic fatal ski accidents from the 2005-2006 through the 2009-2010 winter season were compiled by members of the Federal Ministry of the Interior. Data on age, gender, nationality, gear used, altitude, accident cause, primary cause of death, and helmet use were collected. The number of fatalities was related to a million skier days during this 5-year period.

Results: In total, 207 fatalities were registered during this time period. An overall incidence of 0.79 deaths per million skier days was calculated. Mean age was 50.9 ± 17.7 years. More than 85% of all fatalities occurred in males and 93.1% in skiers. Mean altitude was 1706.1 ± 517.7 m above sea level. In total, 52.7% were nontraumatic deaths, with the majority (73%) attributed to cardiac arrest. Regarding traumatic deaths, 41.2% died after a fall, 18.6% after collision with another skier, and 35.1% after an impact with a solid object. Head injury was the primary cause of death in 46.4% of traumatic deaths.

Conclusions: Death is a rare event in recreational winter sports on Austrian ski slopes. Nevertheless, awareness of potential risk factors and common dangers may impact snow riders' behavior and help reduce the incidence of on-slope fatalities.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / mortality*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Austria / epidemiology
  • Cause of Death
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / mortality*
  • Female
  • Head Protective Devices / statistics & numerical data
  • Heart Arrest / mortality*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Skiing* / injuries
  • Young Adult