Skiing is a wonderful outdoor sport. It affords exhilaration and excellent exercise, in beautiful surroundings like few other sports but it can of course be very dangerous!
Every year thousands of people head for ski resorts around the world. The tragic death of a seven year old British child in the French Alps has highlighted the fact that skiing often carries with it tragic consequences. Carwyn Scott-Howell was on a family vacation when he went off piste. After losing his way he fell off a rocky outcrop to his death.
Similarly, there was the tragic death of Natasha Richardson, who died in a freak skiing accident. She was at the bottom of a beginners ski slope when she nose dived down a hill, an accident that seemed innocuous at the time, even though she was not wearing a ski helmet. Ms Richardson got up immediately following the accident and laughed it off but later suffered from a subdural hematoma and subsequently died.
Michael Schumacher a Formula 1 driver who is accustomed to extreme risk taking was severely injured in a skiing crash. Schumacher is an extremely experienced Formula 1 driver who is often involved in serious crashes as was demonstrated when he had a British Grand Prix horror smash which left his 1999 title hopes in tatters and from which he emerged with only a broken leg. At the time of his skiing accident Schumacher was wearing a helmet which had a camera mounted on it. Controversy still rages as to whether this was one of the causes of his catastrophic brain injury. The helmet completely broke into 2 parts and it is thought that the camera weakened the helmet thus causing it to split open.
These are skiing accidents which have occurred in varying circumstances and the question that has to be asked is whether skiing is a forgotten sport when it comes to risk assessment and whether more steps need be taken to minimise the risk to this sport. Perhaps the use of ski helmets should be made compulsory. Despite a spike in ski helmet sales after Schumacher’s injury, a third of people still refuse to wear ski helmets. The debate on the use of ski helmets has raged on for many years. It is worth noting that in Italy and Austria it is compulsory for children to wear ski helmets.
One thing is clear and that is there are some people who are attracted to danger and enjoy taking risks, and the more extreme the sport the greater the thrill. Whatever, the reason there can be no doubt that accidents do and will happen, with often tragic consequences.
Gary Boyd, Partner, Hilary Meredith Solicitors Limited