Here are the statistics.
Was Natasha Richardson's fall just a freak accident?
According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), during the past 10 years, about 39.8 people have died skiing/snowboarding per year on average. During the 2007/08 season, 53 fatalities occurred out of the 60.5 million skier/snowboarder days reported for the season. Forty-four of the fatalities were skiers (38 male, 6 female) and nine of the fatalities were snowboarders, (8 male, 1 female). The rate of fatality converts to .88 per million skier/snowboarder visits. This means a chance of dying on the slopes is less than one in a million.
Serious injuries (paraplegics, serious head and other serious injuries) occur at the rate of about 43.6 per year, according to the NSAA. In the 2007/08 season, there were 41 serious injuries. Thirty-two of these serious injuries were skiers (25 males, 7 females) and nine were snowboarders, all male. The rate of serious injury in 2007/08 was .68 per million skier/snowboarder visits.
How does this compare to other sports? In 2006, 3,800 people drowned in swimming accidents, and 1,100 people died in bicycling accidents.
Although there is no statistical significance to the following, it helps to offer a perspective: The National Safety Council points out than in 2006: 44,700 Americans died in motor-vehicle accidents; 6,100 pedestrians were killed; 8,600 died from unintentional public falls; 5,100 died from unintentional public poisoning; 43 died from lightning; and 67 died from tornadoes.
Even though serious or fatal skiing accidents are extremely rare, that's not much solace for the families of those injured or killed on the slopes. Our thoughts are with Natasha Richardson's family in this difficult time.