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Are ski resorts too dangerous?
Posted: 12 April 2009 10:23 PM  
Total Posts:  2234
Joined  2003-10-24

I must admit that I don’t ski a great deal in ski resorts these days. With the introduction of fast ski lifts, modern ski and snowboard gear and equipment like helmets and back protectors you seem to get slopes full of Robocop clad loons honing around the place without a thought for other slope users. I remember the case of Philippe Traynard, French ski touring pioneer who was hit by an out of control skier a couple of years back at the bottom of the pistes at Chamrousse. Traynard, in his late 80s and still skiing suffered a broken hip. The end of a long ski career through no fault of his own.

Today I was at les Sept Laux. The resort has something of a reputation with so called “freeriders” but the place was nearly empty. I was skiing with my 4 year old son. After a lunch stop with mum we were climbing up a path that links the restaurant area with the “front neige”. Suddenly a “freerider” appeared over the lip of the slope riding switch and after avoiding me crashed into my son. This on a path within the resort. The slopes above completely empty, you would have to try very hard to find someone to run into.

My boy received the full force of the skier and though nothing was broken was bruised and shocked by the incident. After some remonstrations with the skier, who told me he could teach me a thing or two about skiing I took my son back to the restaurant to recover. Accidents happen but to ski like that in a beginner’s area then across a footpath is outrageous. The piste security were not particularly interested in the incident. This is the second time this season we’ve had a problem in this zone. Earlier in the year another roboidiot fell on my son after trying a hockey stop at the bottom of the beginners drag lift. Another person who considered himself “an expert skier”.

What is to be done? Well don’t ski in resort is one answer but I do wonder whether French ski resorts need to get over their “laissez-faire” attitude and introduce pro-active American style slope policing? I’m absolutely furious about the incident and am going to make my thoughts known to the mayor. At the very least they could install a chicane at the bottom of the slopes to slow users down entering a pedestrian and beginner’s area.

Posted: 13 April 2009 03:22 PM   [ # 1 ]  
Sr. Member
Total Posts:  139
Joined  2005-05-06

I have 3 children, 3yrs, 5yrs and almost 7. They live in a town with a small resort. This safety issue is something that bugs me whenever I am out with them. I do prefer the smaller resorts, though this didn’t seem to help you. We have just had a great (and safe) weekend at the end of season bash her at La Grande Terche and, I get the feeling that this small resort is fairly well policed by the locals / piste patrol / ESF, when we go up to the big smoke (Avoriaz) I feel a lot more vulnerable and would be very happy to see more rigorous policing. My worst injury was when stood in Avoriaz and was skiied into by 18 stone of out of control skier.


Posted: 14 April 2009 10:40 PM   [ # 2 ]  
Total Posts:  1
Joined  2009-04-14

This is an issue which worries me greatly. As an experienced, intermediate, piste skier I am constantly amazed by the lack of consideration given to other slope users by a significant minority of people. I always feel the need to ski “defensively” in order to protect myself from the reckless actions of simple minded skiers and boarders. However, my real fear is for the safety of my 2 year old daughter, as when she begins to ski in 1 or 2 years time the pistes will no doubt be more crowded and will be populated by a higher number of dangerous individuals. Skiing can and should provide a real sense of freedom from the constraints imposed by modern life, but with this freedom comes a responsibility for ones actions and sadly some people are seemingly unable to police their own actions. It is time for lift companies, resort managers and local communes in Europe to be proactive and make the pistes a safer place.

Posted: 15 April 2009 10:20 AM   [ # 3 ]  
Total Posts:  58
Joined  2008-10-29

Perhaps it is time governments impose legislation on the building/renovation of lifts? In other words, it’s all well for the lift companies if they can carry x thousand of people up the mountain every hour, but no one thinks of the resort’s capacity to discharge this massive arrival at the summit. It should not be too difficult to create a rule whereby one cannot build beyond a certain capacity based on piste width and length.

Incidently, we are still very lucky in the haute savoie as most resorts use quite outdated equipment. A detachable quad chair is already quite luxurious. I was in Austria last month. They have either 6 or 8 people detacheable chairs everywhere. Sometimes running parrallel going up the same peak! Barely ever saw a quad. And believe me, the pistes get extremely crowded.

In other words, it’s not too late for haute savoie resorts to inteligently manage piste crowds.

Posted: 15 April 2009 11:22 AM   [ # 4 ]  
Total Posts:  2
Joined  2004-01-19

Since i started skiing with my wife (slowly) and then with my 3 y.o. son (very slowly) I realized the speed and the risk being hit by reckless skiers, even on blue or green slopes. I have also the impression that helmets and other protectors used very often by the careless idiots make things worse. This season my wife and me start wearing helmets. For her I also bought a massive back protector.
The funny thing is, that the only collision I suffered in 36 years of skiing was at a wide and easy slope in Val d’Isère where a reasonable snowboarder crashed into me, after looking at me for 20 sec coming nearer and nearer. I was the only person there. he was very very “desolé”. I have the theory that collisions happen, when people try to avoid it looking at the obstacle and say internally “Don’t crash into this”. There might be a neuroscientific explanation for that. Better is: look at the way where you want to go.
I think the jurisdiction is very important. I found it helpful that the German politician Althaus (state governor) who crashed in Austria on new years day into a Slovakian mother and killed her was convicted of manslaughter by neglicence and sentenced to a fine of EUR or so.

Posted: 16 April 2009 09:29 PM   [ # 5 ]  
Total Posts:  24
Joined  2004-08-22

I reckon the blue slopes are even more dangerous, because the skiers believe that they have the ability to go fast and then either lose control or hit somebody.....once the pistes get steeper they have to slow down because they don’t have the ability.  Is is carving skis that make people think they have the skills?......

Posted: 03 May 2009 04:49 AM   [ # 6 ]  
Total Posts:  2
Joined  2004-02-25

I agree that the most serious risk of injury is from out of control skiers/boarders. In beginners areas it should not be too difficult to arrange chicanes to slow down skiers/boarders on entry to the area. Some resorts are better than others in this respect.

This winter I skied in the US for the first time. Apart form the fact that there are far fewer skiers, they have better manners. Also speeding/reckless behaviour is punished there in 2 ways. If you are caught skiing recklessly in a slow speed area, you will lose your lift pass. No questions asked. Also you may be punished in law. Plus if you cause anyone injury it likely to cost you a serious amount of money in damages. Many people criticise the people in the US for resorting to the law, but it sure does make people think twice about behaving badly.

Then later in the season I spent a week in Val d’Isere. What a difference. Up the mountain things aren’t too bad. There is a lot of room there. However at the bottom by the Solaise Express the general standard of behaviour is appalling. It is crowded, but still people still try to keep their speed up, just because they can’t be arsed to walk a few yards.

Posted: 23 October 2009 12:13 AM   [ # 7 ]  
Total Posts:  3
Joined  2009-10-02

yeah i feel like this has gotten worse in recent years.  It seems people alot of skiers/boarders these days either overestimate their ability to handle difficult slopes, or they simply fail to show enough consideration for other people on the trail.  While i have nothing against snowboarders generally speaking, i notice far more accidents caused by careless boarders than skiers, at least here in the US.  And while there are certainly punishments for reckless skiing at most US ski resorts like mentioned above, theres almost never anyone to enforce any rules as i hardly ever see any type of ski patrol.


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