Heli-skiing isn’t quite what it says on the tin. It’s not skiing off the back of a helicopter, for example. It is simply taking a helicopter ride to remote mountainous areas that are not accessible by regular means. So basically like taking a private yacht to a private beach that is inaccessible to the public. The super-rich way to ski – with no other holiday makers to run into you or slow you down, virgin snow and a bit of peace and quiet. That doesn’t sound very dangerous does it? It just sounds exclusive and expensive. Well, it is exclusive and it is expensive but it’s also incredibly dangerous. So dangerous in fact that it is banned in Germany, France and most of Austria. There is also a large campaign to ban the sport in Switzerland and the Alps.
So what’s all the fuss? Well, skiing is a risky business in the first place, with serious injuries and deaths reported yearly across central Europe. But heli-skiing throws in the extra risk of flying in a helicopter – not just a standard helicopter route but low flying in dangerous mountain terrain. Then there’s the issue of skiing in an unmaintained area with risks of falling into tree wells, unpredictable drops and, most common of all, avalanches. There is a fierce debate at the moment regarding misconceptions about the dangers of heli-skiing, as the press tend to report heli-skiing deaths more vigorously than they do deaths at normal skiing resorts. However, considering it is the heli-skiing operators that are shouting the loudest about this, I think it’s a safe bet that heli-skiing should still be attempted with extreme caution.
Any sports that have water in close proximity tend to have high death rates through drowning (even including fishing, which some believe to have claimed more lives than any other sport or pastime in history) but cave diving is the highest risk of them all. Unlike freediving or scuba diving there’s no fast return to the surface for air. Underwater in total darkness with risks of getting lost, decompression, the bends, equipment failure and seizures from accidentally breathing in pure oxygen, makes it a high risk activity. Around 10 to 15 cave divers die each year, which considering the relatively small number of people in the world who even attempt this dangerous hobby, is a very high percentage indeed. If you thought that scuba diving and caving were dangerous then just combine all the dangers of those two sports, add about 50 more and you’ll have a rough idea of just how perilous it is to head into deep underwater caverns where not even a vestige of light exists.
Street Luging was invented in California in the 1970s when local skateboarders found that they could achieve incredible speeds by lying on their back and riding their skateboards down steep streets. The idea has since turned into a sport and has its own World Series Championship. However it must be said that the brainwave that these skateboarders experienced was very similar to one that British soldiers stationed in Switzerland experienced nearly 100 years earlier, when they began using toboggans and sleds to race at high speeds on their backs (or head first) through the winding and steep streets of St Moritz. This spawned the Luge and Skeleton as a sport, but street luging is relatively new. All three sports are of course dangerous but in less regulated conditions it’s the street luge that has caused most controversy, with riders and spectators alike killed throughout its short history. The obvious dangers stem from having your head and body so close to the ground whilst traveling at such high speeds. The slightest error and it is incredibly easy to dislocate a shoulder, break your neck, end up concussed, shatter your legs or just simply rip off large areas of your skin if the suit splits. The minimum you can expect when participating in a street luge are some serious bruises and bumps, even with full safety gear on.
BASE jumping, or B.A.S.E jumping, is simply jumping off a base, platform or structure. So it is BASE-ically just jumping off things. Jumping off things has always been dangerous, we all know that, but what has really been making the news recently is the fact that there seems to be a trend for daredevils to kill themselves by jumping off of mountains and buildings in bat suits. Heard of that? Well, that’s base jumping too but they’re called wingsuits, not batsuits. Jumping off of skyscrapers, mountains or any high structure aided by a parachute (or a wingsuit) of course makes BASE jumping one of the world’s most dangerous things that you can do with your free time. However I’d say that the wingsuit jumps are more like attempts at flying rather than jumping, which has of course been a disastrous pastime for mankind in itself.
One of the earliest BASE jumps was Franz Reichelt’s attempt to jump off the Eiffel Tower in 1912. He had developed a tailored jacket that would transform into a parachute once falling from a height but unfortunately the suit didn’t quite work out and the parachute wrapped around him. He sadly died instantly upon impact with the Parisian concrete below. Worse still he actually only jumped from the first level of the Eiffel Tower as the suit was in a development stage and not ready for a really high jumps. People have since broken world records for the highest BASE jumps by plummeting down from mountains at over 20,000 feet high and in 2014 the world saw its first BASE jumping dog when legendary BASE jumper Dean Potter’s dog, Whisper, accompanied him on a jump. Potter was killed in May 2015 attempting a dangerous BASE jump with a wingsuit in Yosemite National Park.
Why people have always taken a thrill in challenging bulls to an eye to eye showdown, or by jumping on their backs, is beyond me but it’s something that the human race (largely men) have been obsessed with across various continents for generations. People have been testing their might against bulls ever since Theseus allegedly thrust a sword into the Minotaur’s throat over 2,000 years ago. If it did happen, the Minotaur was probably less half-man/ half-beast and more a starved, tormented and enraged bull. Regardless of the origins, fighting bulls and riding them have claimed countless lives over the years, making it one of the world’s most ancient and dangerous sports. The risks of being thrown from a 2,000lb furious animal are self-explanatory, with regular cases of brain damage, back breaking and mauling reported. And there is of course the added risk of being trampled to death after you have been thrown off, which really just adds injury to injury.
Thinking of jumping, luging or diving into a new sport? Speak to sports insurance specialists such as Bluefin Sport for expert risk management advice and tailored policies to ensure you’re fully protected for your next high-adrenaline pursuit!