SNOWBOARDING has enjoyed a phenomenal rise in popularity since the 1990s.
It was first included in the Winter Olympics in 1998 and is often referred to as one of the fastest growing winter sports, helped in the UK by dry ski slopes such as Ski Rossendale.
But like all adrenalin sports, it is not without dangers.
Michael Handley, from Blackburn, was an experienced snowboarder and had trained for the British Snowboarding Championships when he had a fatal accident on a slope he had boarded down many times before.
He landed badly after becoming airborne and died in intensive care.
His family, however, have said his death should not put people off the sport he loved.
According to established winter sport safety website, Ski-Injury.com, such accidents are incredibly rare, while the Ski Club of Great Britain says the injury rate is not that much different from ‘normal’ sports such as football.
Developed in the United States in the 1960s, the sport is heavily influenced by skateboarding and skiing. Snowboarders descend a snow-covered slope while standing on a board attached to their feet.
‘Tricks’ can be performed, with some types of snowboarding, similar to stunts performed by skateboarders.
Ski-Injury.com said that while snowboarding was very safe, it did carry a slightly higher risk of injury than alpine skiing.
Figures show between three and six snowboarding injuries per 1,000 days, compared to two to three injuries per 1,000 days for alpine skiing. Ski physicians argue that conditions are similar, if not the same, as alpine skiing.
However, snowboarding is easier, both in terms of hiring equipment and ‘having a go’ yourself, suggesting that the increased level of injury is more to do with less mountain experience rather than an increased level of risk.
According to the National Ski Areas Association (Canada) during the past 10 years, 41.5 people, on average, have died skiing or snowboarding per year.
Specialist clothing and ‘codes of conduct’ on piste are also enforced in resorts to ensure safety.
Michael’s father, Tony said: “Michael had all the top quality gear and he was a brilliant snowboarder.
“He really knew what he was doing and it’s just one of those things. It could happen to anybody.
“It was his passion and what he loved to do.”
Vicky Norman, of Ski Club Great Britain, said: “What happened to Michael was a real tragedy. As with any action sports, snowboarding comes with associated risks but they are also as safe as you make them.
“For all mountain users, the International Ski Federation has 10 rules for skiers and snowboarders to help everyone stay safe on the slopes and they should be followed at all times.
“The injury rate associated with snowboarding is relatively low and probably not much different from ‘normal’ sports like football.”