Tackle the Headwall at Tuckerman's Ravine, Vt., or Corbet's Couloir at Jackson Hole, Wyo., and you're sure to have thoughts of how your family will be spending your life insurance payout. But is strapping on your boards any more life-threatening than a Sunday afternoon bike ride or a dip in the lake? Depends how you look at it.
Skiing and snowboarding claimed 39 lives in 1998, which translates to about four deaths for every million people who skied that year. Also in 1998, roughly 700 cyclists were killed, at a rate of 16 deaths per million pedalers. Swimming was even more dangerous, with 1,500 fatalities-26 per million swimmers.
But look at the numbers a different way, and skiing proves to be the riskiest of the three. Snowsliders had .75 deaths for every million visits to a ski resort, compared to .65 deaths for every million times a swimmer entered the water and only .27 deaths per million bike trips.
Want more perspective? Some 5,900 pedestrians' lives were claimed in 1998, so crossing the street could be the most dangerous sport of all.
Test Your Ski IQ
Curious how you stack up mentally against some of the world's best skiers or just want to gain a mental edge on your skiing buddy? Try the Athlete's Competitive Edge (ACE) test.
This 50-question, Internet-based sports-psychologyassessment compares you to Olympic skiers in 23 areas, including focus, decisiveness and performance under pressure-all of which can affect how well you ski.
Within seconds of taking ACE, you'll receive an analysis of your responses. The assessment includes your two most likely mental errors and several pages of detailed suggestions on how to correct them. Because the test is geared toward competitive athletes, the more serious you are about skiing, the more helpful the suggestions may be. For example, if you value spending time with family and friends over time on the slopes, one of your most likely errors could be "over-committing" because you allow other concerns to take precedence over skiing. Most helpful for recreational skiers is advice on improving confidence and focus. Work on these psychological aspects of skiing as much as you work on your carving skills, and you may make some unprecedented improvements. If you can't have the body of Hermann Maier, perhaps you can at least develop the brain.
To try the ACE assessment, visit www.takeace.com. Cost: $35.