It is the second high-profile skiing accident in the past week. Congressman Sonny Bono, who became popular in the 1970’s as husband and singing partner of Cher, was killed Monday while skiing with his family at Heavenly Ski Resort, a resort in California. His body was found by the ski patrol on the Nevada side of the resort two hours after he was reported missing by family members. A preliminary investigation shows his death as an accident, although an autopsy will be performed.
Bono is described as a proficient skier with many years of experience. The Associated Press quotes a Heavenly employee as stating that Bono was skiing alone at the top of the Orion slope when he crossed beneath a chairlift and hit a tree.
This latest skiing accident follows on the heals of another high-profile accident. On December 31, Michael Kennedy, son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was killed while skiing at Colorado’s Aspen resort. Reports indicate that Kennedy was participating in a game of “football,” using a water bottle, while skiing with his family down the slopes. An autopsy showed that Kennedy suffered instantaneous and incapacitating injuries after hitting a tree.
Each year, an average of 35 people die from skiing or snowboarding accidents, although few receive as much attention as Kennedy’s or Bono’s. Local resorts are not immune to accidents. On December 31, a 59-year-old man died after crashing and breaking his neck on the Snow Park trail at Whitetail. This was the second fatality to occur at Whitetail since the resort opened in 1991. Fatalities at all area resorts are uncommon, but not unheard of.
Most ski accidents result from severe head trauma after collisions with immovable objects, such as trees. Often, but not always, a skier or snowboarder involved in an accident fails to properly judge his or her ability level. Some accidents are alcohol- or drug-related. Other accidents result from a skier or boarder becoming lost or trapped in a tree well.
On the whole, skiing is a relatively safe sport if one skis cautiously. The severity of many accidents can be reduced through the use of a helmet. Although helmets have become commonplace in sports such as biking and rollerblading, they have yet to make many inroads in skiing, although many children now ski with helmets. Although there is likely to be resistance, the latest string of high-profile accidents may result in a push towards helmet use for all skiers and snowboarders.
M. Scott Smith is the founder and Editor of DCSki. Scott loves outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, kayaking, skiing, and mountain biking. He is an avid photographer and writer.
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