Originally Posted by catskills
Maybe NPR thinks they knows the answer. My 35 years of skiing, working in the ski industry and 10 years of ski patrolling, I sure as hell don't have the answers.
If you listen to the piece again, you might notice that neither NPR nor the reporter, Kirk Siegler, offer an opinion on the topic. In typical NPR fashion, the reporter interviews several people with different viewpoints: a random skier, a random snowboarder, and two industry flacks:Greg Ditrinco (editor at Ski Magazine):
"The improvements in ski gear, essentially, shorter, wider skis make people better sooner. And that, probably, I would say, is one component of people perhaps skiing faster than they formerly did."
Geraldine Link ( Director of Public Policy, National Ski Areas Association):
"...fatalities increased? They haven't. They've actually stayed incredibly stable over, say, the last decade."
The reporter then recites some statistics, showing that Link is basically correct. Death rates haven't changed much, if at all.
Putting on my editor's hat (since I guess we're doing media criticism here) , I'd say it's a pretty weak piece overall and the peg is misleading - a casual listener would get the impression that skiing has become more deadly recently when in fact it hasn't. Granted, an alltime record of 17 skiers died in Colorado last season, but that's not many more than the longterm average of 14 per year. The previous season had many fewer deaths than usual nationwide (22), but that's also a statistical anomaly. Using these two numbers as a peg ("Seventeen people were killed while skiing in [Colorado] alone. For comparison, look back to last season, only slightly more people died on ski accidents in the entire United States
.") is misleading since it cherry-picks two data points to give a false impression. The rest of the story sounds like it was on autopilot. I'd give it a C-.
Putting on my philosopher's hat, I'll give my opinion: what we're seeing is risk homeostasis
. The overall death rate is stable, despite increases in safety (better bindings, more grooming, better avi control, skis that are easier to control, helmets, avi beacons, etc.) As it becomes "safer" people just increase their risk-taking proportionally so that the overall risk stays more or less constant. My $.02