Posted on: 2014-01-08 16:58:20 by davidof

All the gear, but no idea

Le Matin Swiss has published a fuller interview with Dominique Perret. At 51 Perret, once dubbed The Best Freerider in the World, has hucked 36m cliffs and skied on the north face of Everest continues with the theme of off piste skiers who are geared up but clueless.

An avalanche at Mase in the Valais killed four people on Sunday including a guide. Another skier was killed at Nendaz and two other off piste skiers triggered slides at Nax and Nendaz but escaped. With 11 deaths in 9 incidents (8 at risk 3) it has been the deadliest start to winter in Switzerland for a number of years.

“In Switzerland we don't look at things from the right viewpoint. It makes me mad to look at people who spend 700-1000 Sfr on an airbag but then won't pay a cent for avalanche or off piste training. This conspicuous spending gives a feeling of invulnerability but it is dangerous and trompeur. People buy too much gear, manipulated by marketing but without really having the ability to react if there is an incident whereas they should be learning how to gauge risk and avoid it if it is too high. Those who know the mountains find it much easier not to ski a nice but unstable slope covered in powder. The indispensable avalanche beacon or ABS are not a life insurance as some appear to think."

Perret also doesn't wear a helmet. “Guides never wear them skiing. It is not by accident. In the mountains you need all your senses working fully, in particular hearing, in order to sense potential danger. We need to relearn how to listen and observe. Training with professionals can help. It is not when our mates are suffocating under 2 meters of snow that we want to be getting out the manual for our beacon."

The Verbier based guide also has some practical ideas to encourage training, “Those who've done avalanche training could get a reduction on their insurance premium or their ski pass. Someone who has bought a beacon or airbag could be offered a reduction on an avalanche course. Apart from that we need a publicity campaign that presents training as a right of passage to access off piste or if you are not trained to hire a guide. That has a cost but a professional will teach you more than the latest airbag. Ski is like live, the more you want freedom the more you need knowledge.

It is now that politicians need to educate themselves so we don't end up with simple blanket bans on skiing off piste. The mountains need to remain free, in particular because ski touring is more and more popular. This winter risks being very deadly. In particular because Joe Skier doesn't have much free time and will find it hard not to be drawn to powder and that, either through scorn or lack of knowledge of the basic rules and avalanche bulletin.”