Two off-piste skiers who triggered an avalanche on 24th of February in the ski domain of the small resort of Saint-Jean-Montclar in the Alpes de Haute Provence have been released by the Digne-les-Bains criminal court.
The two skiers had been charged with reckless endangerment after five members of the gendarmerie were hit by the slide and a member of the piste patrol who came to their assistance suffered a fracture to his femur. The avalanche risk was 3 [considerable] at the time.
The president of the court said he was disappointed to free the pair but he explained that there is no law in France against off-piste skiing outside of local by-laws and prefectorial decrees. The state prosecutor had called for a 3 month suspended sentence against one of the skiers and 2 months prison against the second who had already been found guilty on a drugs related charge.
The local PGHM (Peloton de Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne) told PisteHors.com that “the accident happened in the ski domain but entirely off-piste and therefore in a non-secured area. The couloir where the accident occured was below a ski lift. The authorities are considering an appeal.”
Guy Cattai, the director of the Superbagnères ski resort is keen to prosecute four snowboarders who triggered an avalanche which hit skiers on a piste in his resort. In a similar case in 1998 two snowboarders, Raoul Surcouf a British national and resident of Jersey and Per-Jonas Eriksson a Swede were found not guilty of the same charge after an appeal. The court said that they did not intend harm to others and that in fact no-one had been hit by the slide that they had triggered.