Kayakhelp is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

15 Worst Skiing Accidents

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

15 Worst Skiing Accidents

Skiing, in any form, is an adrenaline sport. The skiers at the top of their game reach incredible speeds, jump higher than a house, and take on enormous challenges.

Anyone who has spent time on skis will know what it is like to fall and crash. However, as the speeds increase and the jumps get bigger, the consequences become more serious.

Big crashes cause double ejections, cartwheels, tomahawks, and even death. Skiing accidents are caused by human error and natural hazards, but most are avoidable with the proper precautions.

In this post, we will give you a rundown of the worst skiing accidents that have hit the headlines.

1. TJ Lanning At 2006 Birds Of Prey Downhill Race

Image courtesy of Aspen Times

TJ Lanning had finally gotten over a previous injury after months of rehab. His return downhill ski race was the Birds of Prey downhill in Beaver Creek, Colorado, in 2006 and was set to make a serious comeback onto the downhill racing scene.

Lanning was doing well on his run but made a mistake on one of the turns. This mistake caused him to try to make up for lost time by going all out and pushing hard.

As his speed increased and approached the final turn, he forgot about a deep compression in the course. As he hit the compression, his tired legs could not compensate, sending him out of control.

His left ski somehow got caught up on the snow, high-siding him into the air. This unfortunate event, combined with his speed, sent him over the first course safety barrier.

He then rag-dolled into the secondary fence after spinning several times and losing his skis. He hit his face, head, and back as he tumbled before landing on the snow.

Miraculously TJ Lanning got away without major injuries. But, watching the video of his crash is a good reminder of how serious the consequences are in the search for speed.

2. A 1,600ft Tumble In Alaska

Image courtesy of Teton Gravity Research

In 2015 extreme skiing veteran Ian McIntosh experienced one of the scariest crashes caught on film. He was filming for Teton Gravity Research in Alaska for the Paradise Waits ski film.

McIntosh dropped into a line that he had studied meticulously, but there was a 5ft deep trench he hadn’t seen. The trench made itself apparent during one of his first turns, causing him to fall.

The loose snow picked him up and carried him down the mountain with his skis ejected from his boots. McIntosh’s experience kicked in fast enough for him to deploy his avalanche airbag.

His airbag kept him above the loose snow, but it also prevented severe trauma injuries as he tumbled. For 1,600ft, McIntosh did what he could to regain his footing, but to no avail.

Instead, he cartwheeled down the whole mountain in under one minute. Incredibly, McIntosh walked away from the ordeal unscathed.

Skiers that take on terrain like this know what they are getting themselves into. They wait for weeks or months for the right conditions and spend lots of time assessing the mountain face.

However, they still need to be prepared for the unexpected. This is where knowledge and the correct safety equipment are priceless.

3. Four Killed In French Ski Resort

Image courtesy of Unsplash

In February 2017, tragedy struck when a group of snowboarders was caught in an avalanche. The group was led by a local ski instructor to a well-known off-piste area in Tignes, France.

They were on foot, carrying their snowboards when the avalanche triggered. A group of skiers set off the avalanche above them, so they had no idea it was coming.

The avalanche took them into a deep trench built to prevent avalanches from reaching the busy ski slopes below. Therefore, it took too long for the rescue teams to dig the snowboarders out.

When you ski off-piste, you need to think about the bigger picture when it comes to avalanche safety. It isn’t just your group at risk, the mountains can be a busy place, and easily accessible off-piste sections become magnets for powder hunters.

4. Skier Dies Hitting A Rock

Image courtesy of Pixabay

In February 2021, a 54-year-old man died after skiing into a rock. The accident happened in Snowbird, Utah.

Jeff Gentry lost control on the “Chip’s Face” ski slope, a steep and unmaintained slope. Even though he had over 40-years of skiing experience, Gentry could not regain control, causing him to ski into the rock.

Unfortunately, Jeff Gentry’s injuries cost him his life, and reports say that he died instantly from the impact.

Even with lots of experience, skiers can get themselves into trouble. These accidents often happen when the skier gets tired or when they push their limits too far.

5. Swiss Avalanche Claims The Life Of A British Skier

Image courtesy of Unsplash

In January 2021, a British skier was caught in an avalanche in the Swiss resort of Verbier. He was skiing in a well-known off-piste area below the main Attelas ski lift.

The area is easy to get to, making it very popular for people wanting to ski fresh powder. On the day of the accident, the avalanche risk was a level 3 on a scale of 5, which means there is considerable danger.

The avalanche took another skier before hitting eight other skiers further down the mountain. After the avalanche, a team of rescuers was deployed, along with several helicopters and rescue dogs.

The avalanche took the life of one British skier while another was left in serious condition.

These incidents are becoming more common as the mountains get busier. Many of them can be avoided with slope users getting themselves educated.

6. French Olympic Snowboarder Dies In An Avalanche

Image courtesy of snowbrains

Even the best athletes in the world can get into trouble. In March 2021, French Olympic snowboarder Julie Pomagalski was caught in an avalanche in the Swiss Alps and died.

Julie Pomagalski won the gold medal in the snowboard cross event during the 1999 Olympic games. She also competed in the Turin games in 2006 in the parallel giant slalom.

The avalanche that occurred on Gemsstock mountain in the Swiss canton of Uri also took the life of her guide, Bruno Cutelli.

By the time the rescue team turned up, both Julie and Bruno were completely buried in snow and died at the scene.

7. British Skier Falls To His Death In French Alps

Image courtesy of Unsplash

The French ski resort of Alpe D’Huez saw tragedy in March 2018, when a British skier fell to his death. He was off-piste skiing with friends when they got into difficulties.

The terrain they were skiing on was too challenging for their abilities. So they took off their skis so they could climb back up the mountain.

Unfortunately, the slope was too steep and icy; the lack of traction on the ice caused two of the three friends to slip and slide off a cliff. One of the skiers died from the fall, one was injured, while the third was unharmed.

Unfortunately, these occurrences happen far too often. It is easy to take a wrong turn when off-piste skiing, putting you into a challenging or impossible position to get out of.

Before going anywhere new to you, you need to thoroughly research your route. If you are in any doubt, turn back before it’s too late.

8. Micheal Schumacher’s Skiing Accident

Image courtesy of CNN

One of the most successful Formula 1 racing drivers had a severe skiing accident on December 29th, 2013. He was skiing in the French ski resort of Meribel and suffered life-changing injuries.

He was skiing off-piste, very close to a groomed slope in the fresh powder that fell the night before. He lost his balance and fell when he hit a rock.

His fall sent him into three other rocks, where he hit his head. Even though he was wearing a ski helmet, the collision gave Schumacher critical brain injuries.

After an investigation, experts determined that Schumacher’s GoPro helmet mount could have compromised the integrity of his helmet. The collision shattered the helmet, causing Schumacher’s injuries.

Unfortunately, Micheal Schumacher’s injuries put him in a coma until June 2014. Since then, he has gone through lots of therapy and lives at home with his wife; however, he will never be the same again.

9. Teenage Skier Dies After Hitting A Tree

Image courtesy of Unsplash

In March 2021, a 16-year-old skier hit a tree causing fatal injuries. The accident happened in Eldora Mountain Resort in Colorado, where first responders tried to revive him.

Tragically, the teenager died at the scene, making this the second fatality in the resort in 48 hours. The previous accident was a 26-year-old who also hit a tree.

10. Skier Dies In The Snow Park In Chamonix

Image courtesy of Unsplash

During the spring, snowparks in the Alps become very popular. The soft slushy snow makes landing more forgiving, which is perfect for practicing freestyle tricks.

But, in April 2009, the French ski resort of Chamonix saw a horrendous accident. Twenty-five-year-old Ed Cakebread, a British skier, working in the resort, suffered fatal injuries.

He hit a blue jump in the snowpark but landed on his neck, shattering his vertebrae. Sadly, pisteurs could not resuscitate him after trying for 30 minutes.

11. Snow Immersion Kills Skier

Image courtesy of Unsplash

In January 2021, a skier was found upside down in several feet of snow in the Californian ski resort of Mammoth Mountain. The skiers who found him started to dig him out of the snow, who were helped by the ski patrol when they arrived.

The ski patrol then tried to revive the skier with CPR and a defibrillator but was unsuccessful. The skier “drowned” in the snow.

When a ski resort gets heavy snowfall, there can be extra hazards. One of these hazards is snow immersion, which can be fatal.

A skier that gets stuck in deep snow head first can suffocate if they cannot get out. This usually happens when a skier gets too close to a tree.

The snow around the tree can be unstable; the weight of the skier causes it to collapse. When this happens, the skier can fall headfirst into the hollow area around the tree’s trunk. When the skier tries to get out, snow collapses around them, suffocating them.

12. Family Falls From A Chairlift

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Chairlifts are statistically very safe; however, accidents do happen. Most of the time, these chairlift accidents are due to passengers being irresponsible.

In 2006, Kelly Huber and her two daughters rode the Quickdraw chairlift in Granby Ranch, Colorado. All three family members fell in an unexplained incident, killing the mother.

Her two daughters were injured from the 25-foot fall. They both survived after being airlifted to the children’s hospital.

13. Georgia Chairlift Malfunction

Image courtesy of Georgianjournal

In 2018 the winter sports world was shocked after a horrific chairlift incident in the Gudauri ski resort in Georgia. The video of the incident went viral, as the chairlift seemed to go into reverse at high speed while full of skiers and snowboarders.

As the chairlift gained momentum, skiers were thrown from it, sending them into the air as the chairs crashed into each other at the bottom lift station.

The passengers were faced with a choice of jumping from the lift or staying put and hoping for the best.

Several tourists were injured, including a pregnant woman from Sweden. Miraculously, no one was killed. The full story is available here.

14. 5 Expert Skiers And Snowboarders Die In An Avalanche

Image courtesy of Unsplash

In April 2013, Loveland, Colorado, received news of 5 snowboarders being killed in an avalanche. Even though the snowboarders were avalanche safety instructors and heli-guides, their preparations were not enough.

The snowboarders were in Loveland for the Rocky Mountain High Backcountry Gathering. Which Ironically is an event to raise money for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

They were caught in a massive avalanche that they did not trigger, but they were in its path. One rider managed to crawl out of the avalanche debris and call for help, but his friends, unfortunately, didn’t make it.

15. Speeding Skier Jailed After Causing Death On Ski Slope

Image courtesy of Unsplash

In November 2000, Nathan Hall, a Colorado skier, was sent to jail after crashing into another skier, killing them. The incident happened in 1997 when Hall was working as a ski lift operator in Vail.

Bystanders’ accounts said Hall was skiing too fast and lost control, hitting Alan Cobb, causing severe head injuries. He was convicted of being in possession of marijuana and alcohol as a minor. However, he tested negative for alcohol and drugs in his system.

Hall was sentenced to six years in prison and was the first criminal trial of a skier for killing someone.

How To Stay Safe While Skiing

Image courtesy of Unsplash

All these stories are horrendous, but they happened in extreme or unlucky circumstances. Unfortunately, we don’t know when these things can happen, so we need to manage the risk when we are on the mountain.

There are several ways we can reduce the likelihood of these horrible occurrences.

Wear A Helmet

Whether you are a skier or snowboarder, you need to wear a helmet. It is true that helmets do not prevent all accidents, especially serious ones.

Helmets reduce the likelihood of injury in the event of a crash or fall. This applies to skiers of any level, whether you are a beginner or an expert.

When we take Micheal Schumacher’s accident into account, his head injuries were horrific and life-changing. However, without a helmet, he would likely have died.

The report into his accident suggested the camera mount had a detrimental effect on the integrity of his helmet. If this is the case, it would be best to buy a helmet with an integrated helmet mount designed and tested by the helmet manufacturer.

Other Protection

There are other ways to protect yourself on the mountain. You can buy various other products that protect different parts of your body.

A great example of this is a back protector. These come in all sorts of forms, even integrated into a backpack, and reduce the possibility of back injuries.

Avalanche Safety Equipment

As we have highlighted above, avalanches are a severe hazard for skiers. When you head into the backcountry, you need to be prepared for the worst.

An avalanche kit consists of a shovel, probe, and transceiver. These items are essential if you or one of your friends gets taken by an avalanche and gets buried.

All of these pieces of equipment are as important as each other. But the first item you use in a burial situation is the transceiver.

The transceiver is an electronic device that continuously sends out a signal. If you get buried, your friends and rescue team switch their transceivers to search to pinpoint your location under the snow.

Once you have located the victim, you use your probe to refine your search. This way, you can determine the best strategy for digging them out.

Another great piece of avalanche safety equipment is the ABS airbag. If you get caught in an avalanche, you pull a ripcord that sets off an explosive charge, and a gas canister inflates an airbag.

The airbag keeps you closer to the top of the snow so you don’t get buried as deeply. Another advantage of the airbag is that it protects you from possible trauma injuries.

Knowledge

Having all the safety equipment in the world doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know how to use it. Everyone who goes into the backcountry needs to understand how to use their avalanche kit.

But more importantly, everyone in the group needs to know how to stay out of trouble in the first place. It is essential to know which parts of the terrain are safe and which are dangerous.

Knowing about the aspect of the slope and its attitude, along with the condition of the snow, can help you make decisions. You can pick a fun and safer way down the mountain or make an entirely different decision.

One of the difficult parts of heading into the backcountry is to know when to call it a day. It is tempting to ski a sketchy line that looks epic, especially if you have spent several hours hiking to it.

It is best to play it safe and go home, then get yourself and your group into a potentially deadly situation.

All of this stuff can be learned from a ski instructor. Many ski schools have avalanche awareness courses that will teach you how to stay safe and rescue people if the worst happens.

You don’t have to head into the backcountry to get yourself into trouble. Accidents can happen within the confines of the patrolled ski resorts.

Most accidents occur on groomed slopes when skiers and snowboarders crash into each other or objects. Most of the time, these accidents can be avoided using common sense.

However, it is a good idea to learn the rules of the slopes. While you learn to ski, your instructor should tell you how to stay safe.

For example, check up the hill before you set off, so you don’t ski in front of someone. And when you stop, make sure you are in a safe place, to the side of the slope, and not below the crest of a hill.

Don’t Push Yourself Too Far

When you are trying to progress as a skier, you need to push yourself. You only get better when you step outside of your comfort zone.

However, you shouldn’t push too hard too soon. It is much better to make incremental steps towards your goal. For example, if you are a beginner skier, stay on the green runs, and don’t be tempted or pushed into skiing on more challenging slopes.

Even if you are experienced, you should know your limits. However, your performance differs from day-to-day, depending on how tired you are.

If your legs get tired, or if you had a late night the night before, sometimes the best option is to call it a day. It is better to ski tomorrow than crash today.

Final Thoughts

Image courtesy of Unsplash

As you can see, you can get yourself into some real trouble when skiing.

However, with some education, pre-planning, and the correct equipment, you can manage the risk on the mountain.

Enjoyed 15 Worst Skiing Accidents? Share it with your friends so they too can follow the Kayakhelp journey.

Share on Pinterest

worst skiing accidents

Author: Peter SalisburyPete is the Owner of KayakHelp.com. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him skiing in the mountains, reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.

Welcome! I’m so glad you are here :-) I’m Pete. I am the owner of KayakHelp.com. I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, I grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When I am not out on the water, you can find me skiing in the mountains, reading my favorite books, and spending time with my family.