Celeb Skiing Tragedy Highlights Risks

Skiing: Safer Than Biking, Swimming

"Sometimes when it's a high-profile person, it draws a lot of media attention and along with that some questions as to the safety of the sport. But if we look at the average, it remains pretty stable," Troy Hawks, communications manager for the industry group National Ski Area Association, told ABCNews.com. Despite some seasonal variation, the 10-year average, he continued, has not changed significantly.

"Of course, we'd like to see zero. But of course accidents do happen," he said.

Each year, the NSAA gathers and publishes accident reports from ski patrol organizations, ski resorts and other sources across the country.

In the 2007-2008 season, 41 serious injuries took place at U.S. ski resorts, compared with 40 in the 2006-2007 season and 57 in the previous season.

The 10-year average, the group said, is 43.6 serious injuries each year. The 10-year rate of injury is .68 injuries per million skier/snowboarder visits.

8 Millon Skiiers; 43 Deaths Per Year

The fatality figures have been similar, Hawks said.

Fifty-three skiers and snowboarders died accidentally on U.S. slopes in the 2007-2008 season, compared with 22 deaths in 2006-2007 and 39 in the season before. An average of 39.8 skier and snowboarder fatalities have occurred on the slopes each season over the past decade. And the 10-year fatality rate is .88 per million.

More often than not, Hawks said, younger males are injured or killed on the slopes.

Hawks said that although the argument could be made that advances in technology allow skiers and snowboarders to feel as if they have more control at faster speeds, there is "just no data showing that there's been any increase in injuries."

Terrain parks that allow skiers and snowboarders to jump and perform acrobatics are relatively new to resorts, but, through signage, mountain ambassadors and radar guns that let guests know how fast they are traveling, more resorts proactively encourage safety.

Slopes Are a 'Set-Up for Collisions'

But safety advocates argue that these measures have not sufficiently kept pace with advances in technology, such as shaped or parabolic skis, and grooming techniques that have increased the average speed of skiers.

"They've been clocking the skiers. It's not unusual for a skiing accident to occur when one person hits another at 40 to 50 mph," said Dr. Daniel Gregory, a California physician and founder of the SnowSport Safety Foundation and the California Ski & Snowboard Safety Organization.

Skiers travel 10-15 mph faster than they did about a decade ago, he said. And, because resorts have been successful at drawing more people to skiing, the slopes are crowded with people of varying abilities.

"That's a set-up for collisions," he told ABCNews.com.

Gregory founded his organizations after his daughter Jessica died skiing at Lake Tahoe in 2006 and is involved in a lawsuit related to her death.

While some situations may not be avoidable, he urged that more transparency and emphasis on prevention and safety is needed.

Famous Accidents

Richardson, 45, and married to the actor Liam Neeson, reportedly fell while taking a skiing lesson at Mont Tremblant, Quebec, in the Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal. She died Wedesnday from her injuries in a New York hospital, a spokesperson said.

Some other prominent people killed or severely injured on the slopes in recent years:

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