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Doubt has been cast recently on the safety — and sanity — of skiercross, a new event that hurtles skiers in packs through fast, obstacle-ridden courses. Dangerous? Sure. But how does it stack up against that old granddad of skiing carnage, World Cup downhill?
Inflicting Pain Since: 1996 (Lord of the Boards, Homewood, California)
Fear Factor: The odds are grim: The 1999 X Games course sent roughly 30 percent of competitors to the patrol shack.
Most Spectacular Crash: At the 1998 X Games, Rob Boyd hit a berm straight on, launching a dozen feet into the air before coming down flat on his back.
Injury Potential: Has shown a tendency to claim specific body parts (an ACL here, a mouthful of teeth there).
One to Remember: At the 1999 X Games, John Dill impacted on the short side of a camel hump, cracked both his heels, and left Crested Butte in a wheelchair.
Lethality:Thankfully, skiercross has yet to kill a competitor.
Inflicting Pain Since: 911 (Kandahar Challenge Cup, Crans-Montana, Switzerland)
Fear Factor: Courses take on menacing, Grendel-like personas: dark, twisted Veysonnaz; cartilage-munching Val Gardena; the terrifyingly steep Hahnenkamm.
Most Spectacular Crash: Moose Barrows’ explosion at the 1968 Grenoble Olympics made him agony-of-defeat poster boy for ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
Injury Potential: Autobahn speeds can twist human bodies in horrible ways; expect multiple surgeries.
One to Remember: In 1988, Tori Pillinger hit a post at the Leukerbad, Switzerland, finish line, shattering a femur, shredding a knee, and sustaining liver and spleen contusions and pelvic and vertebral fractures.
Lethality: Since 1954, at least eight World Cup-level skiers have been killed on downhill courses.
Skiercross has its gruesomely telegenic moments, but it’s a long way from the frozen, bloody Omaha Beach that is World Cup downhill.