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Off piste skier in critical condition
Posted: 10 January 2010 03:12 PM   [ # 16 ]  
Total Posts:  60
Joined  2008-11-16

I agree somehwat with your ideas jonpim but there is a key difference between resuscitation training and avalanche training.

In a hospital resus, everyone there is being paid to be a professional in their capacity, but off piste skiing is very much a voluntary affair and therefore we are left to educate ourselves.

If there was an internationally recognised standard qualification which was reasonably priced and standardised in content and practice worldwide, we could guarantee a better level of competency. These things are not easy to achieve, even in medicine this does not exist, for example we have the Advanced Trauma Life Support qualification which every emergency practitioner should hold if we were being strict about it, but it is both expensive and inaccessible to many.

Avalanche awareness affects a minority of people within a minority sport so it will be difficult to achieve these standards.

We could make an Avalanche awareness charity dedicated to increasing awareness amongst off-pisters, posters in resorts, online training videos free etc…

Posted: 10 January 2010 04:47 PM   [ # 17 ]  
Total Posts:  2
Joined  2010-01-10

Dan Fascia, I see your point about the difference between resuscitation training and avalanche training.
One key aspect there was the importance of learning to work as a team.  Ignorant skiers blundering around with transceivers can just make things worse.

Maybe a better analogy would be Scuba Diving and Padi Certification.  There, the Scuba Diver Course allows you to dive with an instructor, while the Open Water Diver Course allows you to dive with a buddy (no diving alone) independent of a professional.

I don’t know how this is policed, or how insurance companies view the various certificates, but it would seem a better system than we have at present in skiing.

[ Edited: 10 January 2010 04:50 PM by jonpim]
Posted: 10 January 2010 06:48 PM   [ # 18 ]  
Jr. Member
Total Posts:  35
Joined  2006-01-30

I agree with you - in fact that was also part of my point. I personally think it is stupid to bring a group of 12 people off piste if only the instructor knows how to do a search and rescue and has had avalanche awareness training - what if he was the only one buried - a group of 12 can become pretty stretched out, and to me this is just a ratio asking for trouble. But even in a group of 3 going off piste, I would say at least 2 of them should have had avalanche awareness training and had damn well better be out there while training the 3rd person up on it.

I also still think that if all 12 people knew how to search, that it would simply not have taken 15 minutes to get this guy out. Surely someone saw where he last was when the avalanche hit out of a group of 12. Perhaps it took time for things like getting everyone to take their beacons out of SEND mode before the search could properly start - looking at the photos the debris field is not that large, and he appeared to be found at the end of the avalanche if the clump of people in the photo does represent where his body was found. It did not mention others being caught, so is this a case where the last person in the group was hit, and if so, then it is reasonable to think the instructor (the one with the most training) would have been the furthest away.

I too am tired of people defending this practice just because it is the way it has ‘always been done’. Clearly it is done this way because it is profitable for the guides and instructors - but it is simply not safe for the participants. Training should be required for anyone going off piste, even with a ‘pro’, and if that eats into someone’s profit margins, so be it. But these same guides and instructors can certainly market and run the training courses too. If someone wants to hire a guide to go off piste, and part of being able to do that is a requirement to have proof of taking at least a 1 day course to learn about how to use the gear and to become more aware of what sets off avalanches and how to ski more safely to avoid them, then it is better for everyone else who skis off piste that they become educated.

Italy just introduced fines for people who ski off piste without transceivers - to me that is not quite ‘getting it’. There is still no requirement that anyone knows how to use them, so are these now just ‘body recovery devices’ ? There are still far too many people I meet daily in Chamonix whether it be over drinks after skiing or by running into them in resort who think that if you have a transceiver the main purpose is so that the pisteurs can find you and dig you out, in the mistaken hope that this will lead to a live rescue rather than being put into a body bag. Your best chance at survival in any avalanche situation is going to come from the immedate help of the people you are skiing with, because suffocation is not a slow process. Don’t ski with untrained people if you go off piste, and practice your technique regularly. And in my opinion, lawmakers should not focus on banning off piste skiing but on making it safer by requiring this education, and requiring guides and instructors to have proof from their clients that they have had prior training in tranceiver searches before taking people off piste. The only justification for not doing this type of pre-check or training of clients right now is a monetary one. Is that really a good enough reason for people to be put at a higher risk of dying ?

Posted: 15 January 2010 10:16 AM   [ # 19 ]  
Jr. Member
Total Posts:  48
Joined  2009-10-09

I read in the paper that the family of the victim will be a civil party in the prosecution. Apparently the slide was triggered from above by another instructor lead group of snowboarders and they are also being investigated. Maybe some of these routes are getting too crowded? There was some case like this in Val d’Isere about 5 years ago where snowboarders triggered a slide that killed people below. Not that I’m beating up on boarders, I am one myself, but we tend to take different trajectories to skiers and may do more slope cutting. It is a reminder for everyone to watch out who is below although it is not always easy to avoid other groups, some rotues you would wait all day to have a clear run.

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