They recommend skiers wear helmets, but have you ever seen a car driver wearing one? It’s no secret that accidents happen on the slopes: broken bones, bumps, bruises and worse. Before you can ski, you have to ride to the top on an elevated chair that is exposed to both heights and to the cold winter air.
So where are injuries more common: in cars or on ski lifts?
Ski lift statistics
Despite the dramatic description of lift chairs, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) has kept records for over 40 years. Since 1973, there have been 12 twelve deaths related to ski lift malfunctions, the most recent in 1993.
The group does not track injuries from falls when the chairs are functioning correctly, but the organization states that deaths from a fall are even less common. It happened late last month, though, at Granby Ranch near US Highway 40, when a 40-year-old woman fell halfway up the slope.
While there are many more people riding in cars than hitting the slopes, all methods of comparing the numbers show a greater likelihood of being a car accident than a ski lift malfunction.
In 2015 in Colorado alone there were 506 fatal car crashes or 10 for every 100,000 Coloradans.
Not even close
While 12 ski lift deaths is still 12 too many, a closer look at the numbers puts ski lift malfunction fatalities at about .028 fatalities per year. For cars in the United States, that number is 35,400. The report says a person is five times more likely to die in a car crash than in a lift accident.
Ski lifts are a scenic and direct route to climb up a mountain. While some people take heed of their exposed design, history shows they are quite safe.
Elevators are another common way that people ascend heights, but in a protected indoors environment. Seemingly isolated and secure, the NSAA doesn’t just compare ski lifts to cars in their report, but also to elevators as well. The finding: a ski lift is also safer than an elevator.