Vallorcine renews off piste ban

The mayor of Vallorcine, Patrick Ancey, has passed a bye-law for the start of the 2007-2008 season banning off-piste skiing in 2 sections of his community and restriction access to a third sector to days when the avalanche risk is less than 3 (Considerable) on a scale of 5. The ban has not gone down well with snow professionals in the Chamonix valley. Mr Ancey is up for re-election in the spring of 2008.

The main target of the ban is the area above the cross country ski area below the Aiguillette des Posettes, the scene of a number of avalanche incidents. Mr. Ancey, who is himself a mountain guide, says that the main problem for the resort is that the area can be accessed by the Posettes chairlift from the neighboring village of Le Tour and so access is not under the direct control of Vallorcine. Previously the resort had circumvented the current state of French law by declaring the area as a nature reserve as there are sensitive species in the area. The new ban is more direct and wider in scope. Mr Ancey may be been encourage by a recent decision by the Bonneville criminal court to give a year’s ban and fines to off piste skiers who started an avalanche in an area where skiing was prohibited.

Such bye-laws are controlled by the state. Legal experts believe that such a blanket ban is illegal under French law. A ban must respond to a clear risk, level 3 on the avalanche bulletin may too general to count, it must be proportionate to the risk and limited in time.

Commentators have seen these moves as symbolic, a way for communities to absolve responsibility and expensive court action as a result of an accident. Others have accused ski resorts of wanting their “bread buttered on both sides”, selling the image of free-riding without actually offering the service. Another comment is that sailors are not banned from leaving port when the wind goes above force 5 - indeed, like off piste skiers, some actually search these conditions.

Posted by davidof on Tuesday, 01 January, 2008 at 03:30 PM

Patrick Ancey, who is a member of the Mont Blanc guides company has been asked to attend a meeting to explain his decision. Local guides are furious at the ban.

Mr Ancey has decided not to stand for reelection in 2008.

Posted by davidof on  Tuesday, 08 January, 2008  at 09:37 AM

In fact sailors can be banned from leaving port, not at above Force 5, which is a good wind, but above Force 6, in Greek waters, port police are obliged to stop non-professionals from leaving port, and many French port captains would not sign release papers for sailors going “off-shore”.

Posted by artHarris on  Monday, 21 January, 2008  at 11:38 AM
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