General Injury Information

For the details of the methods of the study and data summary, please refer to an article due out in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, Vol 28:1, pp83-89. authored by Michael Tuggy and Ric Ong.


How often do we get hurt?

In the past, skiing injuries have be described in terms of thousands skier-days, that is the number of injuries that occur for every 1000 skiers skiing one day each. Though there are different ways to describe the injury rate, this is conceptually one that most of us can relate to well. The overall injury rate is 8.7/1000 skier-days, the vast majority occuring at lift areas.. This may seem high compare to alpine skiing whose rate is quoted at 3-4/1000, but up to 60 % of those injuries go unreported to physicians or the ski patrol which is where those numbers came from in most of those studies. In self-reporting alpine skiing studies, the rate of injury is about 9.8/1000 skier-days in the late 70's but with the decrease in alpine skiing injuries, the real rate is more likely to be 7/1000 based on more recent estimates.. Another consideration is comparing injury rates in number of vertical feet skied. The backcountry hut data produced an injury rate that is 1/10 of that of telemarkers as a whole and this is likely do to the amount of vertical feet skied on a average day when comparing backcountry skiing to lift area skiing.

Another way of looking at injuries is called Survival Analysis. This is expressed in median number of days to injury or how many days of skiing can we get away with before half of us are injured. This method allows for multivariate analysis of different risk factors and can tell us which are more likely to be significant with relatively smaller numbers. The table below shows the survival analysis comparing plastic and leather boots:


Location of injuries.

The graph on the left illustrates the percent of injuries sustained in various sites and the type of injury. Sprains of various joints are the most common type of injury and most heal within a month. I have received more reports of lower leg fractures but most of these have been associate with collisions with a fixed object (tree or post), not a boot top fracture that is common in alpine skiers. Thumb injuries have been reported at higher rates than in the past years.



Though similar to the data obtained from the Web respondants, there are some differences in distribution of injuries between the two groups that are not statistically significant. It appear that thumb and ankle injuries are less prominent in the Web survey data but is similar to the pattern one expects when correcting for the level of skiers responding to the web survey.







Snow conditions during which injuries happen cover the gamut of what skiers experience during the season. The impact of the increase rate of injuries at lift areas is revealed by the high number of injuries sustained skiing on packed powder surfaces.

Snow conditions Percent of injuries
Corn/slush 19.6
Packed powder 33
Crust 17.9
Powder 12.5
Ice 14.3
Other 2.7

Over 50 % of all types of injuries occur in packed powder and crusty conditions according to the respondents. All the more reason to ski backcountry powder. Any snow condition that predisposed to edges being caught up in a fall are higher risk.


Experience and Injury

As seen earlier in the study, the injury rate varies with level of experience. Current data shows the following injury rates based on level of skier.

Level of skier Overall Injury Rate Knee Injury Rate
Beginner 10.4 3.9
Intermediate 9.2 1.9
Adv.-Intermediate 9.8 3.6
Expert 8.2 2.5
Extreme 5.0 0.4


Backcountry hut information is located on at the Backcountry Info page.

Go on to the Demographics Page

General Injury Info Demographics Knee Injuries Equipment Backcountry Photo Gallery


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Michael Tuggy, MD

Last Updated 12/04 

2004 Michael Tuggy, MD