Europe’s Treacherous Slopes: German Chancellor’s Ski Injury Highlights Season of Danger

A rash of high-profile skiing accidents in Europe led one Italian newspaper to brand the holiday season "a massacre"

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Michael Sohn / AP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has suffered a pelvis injury during a skiing holiday in Switzerland, putting her on the sidelines for the next three weeks

Exactly a week ago, Steffen Seibert, Angela Merkel’s spokesman, told journalists that the German Chancellor had been “extraordinarily upset” to hear that her compatriot, motor-racing ace Michael Schumacher, had been seriously injured in a skiing accident. This morning, with Schumacher still lying in a medically induced coma, Seibert revealed that Merkel herself had suffered a skiing accident, cracking her left interior pelvic ring in a fall while cross-country skiing during her Christmas vacation in the Swiss Engadine region. She’ll miss a planned trip to Poland and several meetings and is largely confined to bed, “following doctors’ advice to enable the optimal healing of this fracture,” said Seibert.

The coincidence has stoked concerns about safety already raised by Schumacher’s misfortune. European ski resorts have racked up some grim statistics this season, as the Financial Times points out:

Mr. Schumacher’s head injury has preoccupied the media, but it was just one in a litany of accidents, and the death toll rose daily. In the six days between Christmas and the new year, at least 18 people were killed in avalanches in the Alps and Pyrenees. Several more died in nonavalanche-related accidents, many more were injured. ‘The holidays are becoming a massacre,’ wrote Italian newspaper Il Giornale.

“There was quite a lot of snow [in Europe] early on [this winter],” says Vicky Norman of the Ski Club of Great Britain. “Then the weather warmed up, and the snow thinned to expose some rocks. Now there’s been a heavy snowfall, and that can cause instability.” Schumacher’s fall may have been caused by his ski hitting a rock, catapulting him headfirst onto another rock.

The sports star was skiing off piste. The burgeoning fashion for leaving the groomed official runs for virgin territory is adding new risks to a sport that, despite the headlines, has been getting safer all the time. Two famous Germans have come a cropper this season, but the number of Germans suffering ski accidents reduced by 58% between the winter of 1979/80 and the last complete year for which statistics have been compiled, 2012/13.

And if anything Merkel’s accident should highlight the good safety record of cross-country skiing. It’s comparatively sedate if strenuous — Merkel was going slowly when she lost balance — and practitioners tend to be older and more experienced than downhill skiers. According to www.ski-injury.com, a website compiled by a Scotland-based ski-patrol doctor called Mike Langran, the most common injury suffered during cross-country skiing is “skier’s thumb,” caused when the skier falls on his or her hand, splaying the thumb over the ski pole.

38 comments
Ocsicnarf
Ocsicnarf

Come on. A famous formula one driver and the chancellor have been injured and what is clearly a coincidence becomes a "season of danger"- 

Marïam ØLümï
Marïam ØLümï

Why the heck does someone in her age, need to go skiing?

Bryan Roy
Bryan Roy

Is that Braunschweiger in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Tiger-Pi
Tiger-Pi

Get well soon Ms.Merkel. 

Terry McBride
Terry McBride

Was she training for the Olympic biathlon? And coming up.....Germans with guns in February near Volgograd? The Russians will be nervous.

Eyemunn Nudgemunn
Eyemunn Nudgemunn

thanks there captain obvious..isn't incident such as this reminds people about safety issues that common people always neglect eventhough its supposed 2 be common knowledge?if u talking about risks there's always risks in all kinds of sports but there has to be some precautionary measures that works to minimize the risks as low as possible..is the current measures works rite now I don't think so..

Andrea Smith
Andrea Smith

Yes, skiing is dangerous, but this year has been more dangerous than usual. Lots of avalanches, lots of average people getting injured or killed as well.

Joe Conway
Joe Conway

Skiing is dangerous - Schumacher and Merkel are adults and know the risks - what needs to be done?

Adam ScrewedEve
Adam ScrewedEve

Nah. Media juts focuses on recognizable faces. You can call yourself stupid all you like though.

Aslı Kolçak
Aslı Kolçak

Why can't we see the protests in Hamburg on international news channels? Is it less important than a broken pelvis?

Alan Bourke
Alan Bourke

Accidents have been happening in skiing forever - but two high-profile people have accidents in short succession and it's all hand-wringing and ZOMG IT'S SO DANGEROUS. People are stupid.

Eyemunn Nudgemunn
Eyemunn Nudgemunn

it happened to a 7 times F1 champion & now to the 1 of the world's leader..there has 2 be some more precautionary measures that needs to be done now

Stephan Ortmann
Stephan Ortmann

Skiing is dangerous, the safest way would be to use a simulator ;)

Jinx
Jinx

In all my years downhill skiing I never was good enough to go off trail, much as I loved it. Just as well, that is where the vast majority of avalanches occur, as this year in Europe. Merkel's injury sounds awful and who would of thunk you could do that with (my opinion) boring as Hell cross country. Sorry Nordic enthusiasts that I'd rather skip trudging, but mostly sorry for Angela Merkel's accident as well as the many other accidents, fatal or painful.

DeanJackson
DeanJackson

An "accident" or another assassination attempt on the ex-Stasi agent's life?


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1368093/Merkel-narrowly-escapes-helicopter-crash-engines-fail-mid-air.html


Now ask yourself this question: How can it be that the Stasi files are being supervised by ex-Stasi officers? How is it that the Stasi files were never examined to determine whether the "collapse" of East Germany was real or planned for, where Stasi agents were placed into positions of power before the "collapse" of East Germany? Ask yourself, why would West German politicians be protecting East German Stasi agents still in control of East Germany, and in control of all of Germany too due to Merkel's election as Chancellor of Germany? 


Now you know that the politicians of the West were co-opted by Moscow & Allies decades ago, otherwise the United States would have sent into the "former" USSR investigative teams to verify that the "collapse" of the USSR was legitimate and not a ruse, since the fate of the United States depends on such verification.




Mendel
Mendel

To say that a Nordic skiing accident of a seasoned individual has stoked concerns about 'Europe's treacherous slopes' is a bit misguided no? Pick it up Time, more is expected of you.

DavidBell
DavidBell

Please select reporters to write stories about subjects they understand.   This author has no idea what skiing involves.   To compare Schumacher's injury to Merkel's is really stretching it.   The comment that skiing "off piste" being a "burgeoning fashion" shows a complete lack of knowledge.   People have been looking for untracked snow for at least 100 years

Skimaan
Skimaan

The National Snow Association should warn people about the risk of playing in snow.

LareneDepopiet
LareneDepopiet

She thought she was ok after the fall, but the NSA sent her X-rays of her pelvis, and that's how she found it was actually broken.

Ocsicnarf
Ocsicnarf

A Merkel is free to ski. She is not so old to retire from ski.

JeanOcelot
JeanOcelot

There was a guy who lived at Copper Mountain, CO who was 85 (at the time of the article written about him) who had skied every day that Copper Mountain was open for the previous 20+ years (i.e., about 150 days per year), with the exception of the 3 days he spent driving back to Connecticut to attend to the funeral of his 101 year old mother.  I plan to be in my 80's and still be skiing.

JeanOcelot
JeanOcelot

Sonny Bono was one of the "tree skiing" idiots - folks who ski through a forest.  That's right, whizzing by trees, making every cut precisely (i.e., until one of those cuts is NOT done precisely, in which case the head goes right smack into a tree - like Bono.)

Tiger-Pi
Tiger-Pi

@DeanJackson Mr.Jackson, wake up. This is the 21st century. You are still  living  with 20th century Cold War  and the Berlin Wall. Are you still thumbing through 'The Spy who came in from the cold'? With Snowden  leaking everything, the NSA and CIA must be wary about what they snoop into these days.

Tiger-Pi
Tiger-Pi

@LareneDepopiet Dont' tell me the NSA   snooped into German Chancellor's health records to find out if her pelvis was actually broken or not!