Slope Safety

August 17, 2022

“The International Society for Skiing Safety (ISSS) is a global, multidisciplinary institution that advances safety issues and injury care in snow sports through education, research and development in all related fields. Members include ski area physicians,orthopaedic surgeons,expertsin biomechanicsand engineering, epidemiologists, ski patrollers and snow sports manufacturers from all over the world. The ISSSholds an international research symposium every two years and its membersare at the forefront ofnew developmentsin snow sportssafety” (ISSS2019).

I am fortunate to be the National Secretary for Canada and to sit on the Board of Directors for this very interesting organization. Every two years the ISSS puts on a congress where papers are presented on a wide variety of topics that relate to keeping people safe on the slopes. In 2019 we met in Squaw Valley California, for a 5-day congress. Topics spanned the areas of epidemiology, risk management including injury risk prediction and reduction, resort management, snow parks, equipment, biomechanics, and injury treatment and health outcomes.

As with the last conference, researchers in Canada and France found that injury rates for snow sports remain low, relative to other sports, at around 2.2 to 2.5 per 1000 skier days4,9. The topic of snowsport helmets was up for discussion, with a number of research teams from several countries reporting that, while the overall increase in the use of helmets is has not been associated with a decrease in concussion, or traumatic brain injury (TBI), the incidence of global head injury (including scrapes, cuts, bruises and fractures) has been reduced4. Head injury rates now average approximately 0.205 injuries per thousand skier days4, while concussions or TBI’s are stable at around 0.08 per thousand9.

Terrain park presentations were especially interesting, with physicists and engineers studying jump shapes and landing platforms in order to create features that increase the margin for error of riders using parks6. Following the example of large park events, terrain park design is becoming more creative, including features that can be used in multiple ways1. Terrain park injuries are a lower percentage of snowsport injuries than one might guess (between 7% and 12% in the studies presented), though the types of injuries in parks are more severe3,4.

A group of researchers in Italy is developing an artificial intelligence (AI) mechanism for injury risk estimation5. Big data is part of the snowsport world, from which algorithms can be created for all sorts of useful tools, including for injury mitigation, via risk maps that are generated through AI. Mapping tools are being developed that illustrate injury hotspots in resorts in the hope of reducing injury in those areas7.

A number of interesting presentations discussed bindings, binding settings, innovative binding systems and the boot-binding complex. One important conclusion is that alpine touring (AT) boots do not interface as well with conventional bindings as they do with specific AT bindings, and that the quest for ever lighter touring bindings can have an impact upon reliability8.

Lots more was discussed at this congress, including good news about compression tights2. Papers will be published in an upcoming special edition of the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, which will be publically available, online, in the next few months. The abstract book can be found at The articles referred to, below, will be published in an upcoming edition of the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sport.

  1. Bettera, M. (2019) Changing dynamics of pipe and slope event course design and the future of resort terrain parks.
  2. Blake, D. , Decker, M., Simons, C., Seifert, J., Shelburne, K., Sterett, W., Davidson, B. (2019) Directional compression tights reduce ground reaction force but preserve dynamic stability during alpine skiing
  3. Bürgi, F. Derrer, P., Niemann, S., Brügger, O. (2019) Terrain park injuries in Switzerland.
  4. Dickson, T.J., Terwiel, F.A., (2019) Snowsport injury trends in western Canada for the decade 2008-09 to 2017-18.
  5. Gobbi, A. De Filippi, R. Furlanello, C. (2019) AIOK: towards the first AI engine for skiers safety.
  6. Hamilton, E., Scambio, J. (2019) Practical terrain park jump design based on field experience.
  7. Heer, B., Bürgi, F., Derrer, P., Brügger, O. (2019) Ski patrol database and the visualisation of injury data.
  8. Hüper, L., Senner, V. (2019) Quantification of functional parameters of modern alpine touring ski- bindings in interaction with the touring ski-boot.
  9. Laporte, J.D., Bailly, N., Morgane, E., Arnoux, P.J., Delay, J.B. (2019) Update on head and spinal injury trends since 1992 in French ski resorts.

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