Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Reduced Injury Risk Found On Powder Ski Days

November 26, 2019


Alpine skiing is Colorado’s most popular winter sport and provides billions in tax revenue each year. Across the country, about 7 million individuals took part in at least one day of alpine skiing in 2017. Skiing while popular and fun does come with inherent injury risks. Authors have found 1-2 ski injuries per 1000 ski days for recreational skiers and 17 injuries per 1000 days in professional skiers. If you have witnessed the traffic out of a ski patrol office on a busy resort day these numbers likely underestimate the injury rates. Thankfully injuries have been cut in half since the early 1990s due in large part to equipment upgrades including skis, bindings, and helmets. As expected, the most common injury occurs at the knee responsible for 1 in every 3 ski injuries. This high rate of injury is reflected in the estimated 17-20K ACL tears which occur every year due to skiing. A recent study highlights the environmental conditions which may influence injury risk.

Pierpoint and colleagues conducted a 5 year analysis of injuries and snow conditions at Colorado ski resorts (Injury Prevention. 2019). Authors looked to identify environmental factors which were correlated to ski injury rates. Overall, they found a ski injury rate of 1.4 injuries per 1000 ski days consistent with previous researchers. Interestingly, they found a significant impact of powder days on injury rates. Skiers were 71% higher on hard pack and 36% higher on packed powder. Further a 22% higher risk was found with less than 1 inch of new snow. Conversely injury rates dropped 8% for every 25 cm of depth in snow pack base levels. Authors concluded that environmental factors may play a significant role in ski injury rates.