5 Celebrity Ski Accidents

Ski accidents are the great equalizer—no matter how wealthy, famous, or skilled a person is at the sport, mishaps are bound to occur. While personal accidents can be funny in retrospect, celebrity ski accidents seem to take on lives of their own. Perhaps it is because many of the best-known were fatal; perhaps because it’s entertaining to see the rich and famous fall flat on their butts. Regardless, these memorable mishaps have stood the test of time. Here are five unforgettable ski accidents to entertain, teach, and remind us that skiing is a dangerous sport, regardless of your net worth. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger—Who could forget Arnold Schwarzenegger’s accident in 2006? The Governator tripped over one of his ski poles while skiing in Sun Valley, Idaho. The accident resulted in a broken femur, which was quickly operated on upon his return to Los Angeles. For a short time after the accident, Sun Valley renamed the trail “Arnold’s Run” to commemorate the event.  

Dieter Zetsche—While not a true “celebrity,” this German businessman deserves a spot on this list. While on vacation in Austria, he was whacked by a woman on a snowboard. The impact broke Zetsche’s shoulder, but he did not take any time off from work to tend to his injury; he returned to work following his vacation with his left arm in a sling.  

Heather Mills—Former model and ex-wife of Paul McCartney has quite an embarrassing ski story. While skiing on Moelltaler Glacier in Australia, she crashed into a plastic pole that had frozen solid. She shattered her shoulder blade, but reportedly told the media at the time: “That’s skiing, you know.” 

Angela Merkel—In 2014, German chancellor Angela Merkel joined the list of celebrities who have suffered moderate ski injuries. During a holiday in Switzerland, Merkel fractured her pelvis, forcing the world leader to cancel several meetings and trips in the weeks thereafter. Apparently, she didn’t even realize the pelvis was broken. 

Natasha Richardson—Who could forget the insane story of Natasha Richardson’s unlikely death? The British actress fell while taking a beginning ski lesson at the Mont Tremblant Resort in Quebec. She hit her head, but seemed fine. After refusing medical treatment, she returned to her hotel room. Around three hours later, she began to complain of a headache. She was taken to the hospital and died two days after the accident. Cause of death? Epidural hematoma due to blunt impact to the head. Wear your helmets, kids.  

Right in the Middle of a Wipeout

As a kid, I was a pretty cautious skier—always holding up the rear of my group of friends, opting for packed powder over glades and slalom runs over moguls. I was, however, a good skier. I started ski lessons at age five or six and was surprisingly dedicated to maintaining excellent form on the mountain. Despite my years of lessons, excessive caution got me into a few pretty terrible situations.

My most memorable crash was at the Cranmore Resort in North Conway, NH. I was around ten or eleven years old—already half a decade into my skiing career and tackling the hardest runs the mountain had to offer. Cranmore is a family resort, which means most of the runs are pretty tame. There is one, however, that rivals the black diamond runs at nearby Attitash and Wildcat–“Middle.”

I’d skied Middle a few times, but always in good conditions. On this particular day, the snow was hard-packed and iced over—not the best for a straight shot and steep run from the peak to the lodge. Per usual, I was holding up the rear; my friends had chosen to bomb down in segments, gaining speed for a few yards then slowing into a hockey stop. I, ever the cautious kid, was trying to “use the whole mountain” by taking shallow, conservative turns. By the time I got a quarter of the way down, my friends were already at the bottom.

At some point during the descent, I hit a particularly nasty patch of ice. This wouldn’t have been catastrophic on its own. However, I hit it while finishing a turn, caught an edge, and was sent flying full-speed down the mountain. Too icy to stop, I tried to move my ski tips to the side to slow down. This only worsened the situation as I caught another edge and began to lose balance. Here I was, a ten-year-old skier, flying straight down the toughest trail on the mountain, about to lose balance, when…

I fell. I don’t know if it was intentional or if the caught edge had done me in, but I fell hard. I lost almost every piece of equipment I was wearing—both skis, both poles, and (somehow) a glove. I tumbled and rolled right to the bottom of the slope, finally stopping just a few feet short of the wooden lodge entrance. I sat up, surveyed the situation, tested my arms and legs for broken bones (nothing broken), and, sobbing, collapsed.

Though I broke no bones on that fateful fall, I’d tumbled down at least a third of the mountain’s vertical. Unable to ski the rest of the day, my mother took me home so I could watch the bruises bloom on my arms and legs. When they did, I swear—I looked like Grimace. I still think about that fall every time I drive past Cranmore, and my family never lets me forget how ridiculous that stupid fall was.

Even Olympic Skiers Sometimes Pay a Price

Every Olympics, there are a few reminders that even the best skiers and snowboarders in the world can pay a price for their alpine passions, especially when they’re pushing the edge of how fast they can go. In many ways, this is our favorite kind of wipe out. What seemed brutal in the moment resulted in no big injury. It still earns mad respect from The Black and Blue Room. On the other hand, we’re also sure Totsuka must be disappointed that he wasn’t able to medal. We sincerely wish him a full and speedy recovery and a lot of success in his future pursuits in the Olympics and snowboarding. He’s only 16, after all!

 

Japanese snowboarder Yuto Totsuka. PyeongChang 2018. (Getty Images)

Learning How to Skateboard vs. Learning How to Snowboard

We know a lot of people out there say that skateboarding is harder to learn, and we one thousand percent agree that skateboarding tends to produce more gnarly injuries. What’s more, we recognize that there’s a lot more opportunities seasonally and locally to practice skateboarding compared to snowboarding. It’s also a lot easier, financially and logistically, to start a skateboarding habit.

To us, it really depends on the equipment and the environment. You can find indoor environments and even a lot of parking lots that represent essentially flawless grounds to learn how to at least push off and balance on a skateboard. Now, there are indoor training facilities and even some at-home products you can use to learn and train for snowboarding. But for the most part, you’re dealing with imperfections on the slopes and varying snow conditions that create something of an immersion experience, no matter how bunny the slope is.

Still, things get hard really quickly with skateboarding, whereas a lot of people can become fairly competent at snowboarding in just a day or two. When it comes to skiing vs. snowboarding, the general consensus is that skiing is easier to learn but harder to master. We might say the same thing in that skateboarding is easier to learn than snowboarding but harder to master.

Why choose one when you can do both?

It’s also true that once you’ve learned one of these skills, you should be able to pick up the other pretty quickly. It’s a little like learning a new language. There may be certain rules and words that trio you up, but generally speaking, you can use your knowledge and muscle memory from one discipline to get a head start on learning the other discipline.

 

Different Methods for Learning How to Ski

There are two different methods for learning how to ski. The wedge method, better known as pizza and French fries, involves showing beginners that they can slow down and turn by turning their skis inward in front of them. This wedge position is also known as the pizza slice for the shape the skis make. When using this technique to turn, it’s known as a wedge turn or snow-plough turn. This method is best known as an easy, unintimidating introduction to skiing. However, many people also believe that it creates bad habits that can complicate your learning curve over the long run.

 

Direct-to-Parallel Ski Instruction

Once you get a basic sense of balance, you’ll learn that skiers don’t actually use the wedge position to slow down and make turns very often if ever. Instead, you can use the edge of your skis to turn and stop. The alternative method for learning to ski involves any number of practice techniques and variations that show beginners how to use parallel skiing from the get-go. As a matter of fact, the Association of PMTS Direct Parallel Instructors is dedicated to improving ski lessons and evolving tutorials that emphasize the direct-to-parallel method.

 

Individual Ski Practice Techniques

  • Stem christie: Popularized in Norway, this technique involves forming a half wedge by rotating one ski outward at the tail, initiating a change in direction, and then bringing the other ski parallel to the stemmed ski and thus finishing the turn. The advent of modern side-cut skis has made this technique somewhat antiquated though it’s still taught as part of the wedge ski technique.

 

  • Step Turn: You can also learn how to turn by rotating the tail of one ski inward and making small progressive steps. The Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) have a great video that will show you the basics.

 

  • U.S. Ski and Snowboard is a popular sports organization that provides a selection of great programs and tutorials for specific ski techniques and skill development. This includes side slip with edge set, pivot slips, sideslip to straight run to sideslip, hop turns, hockey stop, pole jumpers, pole jumpers in tuck, wave track, linked turns in wave track, camel jump in wave track, and other steps and jumps.