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Simple question: What's 'Off Piste'? - Page 3

post #61 of 79
Steve, you're obviously of the "NEVER, EVER, DOWNLOAD!" school of thought
post #62 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Bell View Post
Steve, you're obviously of the "NEVER, EVER, DOWNLOAD!" school of thought
What makes you say that? There was plenty of snow:



post #63 of 79
Thread Starter 
Ssh

in post 39 you wrote " Interestingly, "closed piste" doesn't mean you can't ski there. Only that it's become "off-piste". I skied a number of closed trails this past week, and it was not an issue."

I think this may be misleading for several reasons.

The definition of Off Piste is only important to skiers wrt their insurances, otherwise isn't it all just skiing?

So your suggestion that 'closed pistes' become 'off piste' by default is taking the widest and least usefull definition, the 'everything else' one, when many insurances define this term with risk-related qualifications, such as obeying warnings and signs etc. The FIS code is normally included, which is often also a part of the lift ticket sale contract. Many policies would thus be invalidated.

In these cases you mention, it may not have become an issue for you, but for these ski areas people ducking under such ropes is an issue. They have a general duty of care to people using the area. They rely on skiers' cooperation in this. No one wants to see heavy duty fencing everywhere. and heavy handed patrolling. Pistes are closed for numerous reasons, some of which can be of extreme danger, but they do have to be either open or closed, otherwise they are temporarily regraded (Icy, experts only, etc) which is in effect still open.

And can any holiday skier sensibly claim to have equivalent local knowledge to the staff who put these ropes up?

If it was merely your own risk, then fine, it's your problem. But it is not always as simple as that. Unless you're Bill Gates, your lack of third party cover can be someone else's problem.

Ref post 60, are you somehow saying your being with ski instructors makes it ok, unless you were paying for their guiding services?

I think your experiences demonstrate just how confusing the picture in Europe is. It certainly appears clearer in the US.
post #64 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by at_nyc View Post
Still, in the US, they'll come rescue you, for free.

The pay-for-rescue had been discussed every so often even in the US, usually in mountaineering community. The conclusion was there's no way to force the poor climber to pay so the idea was dropped.
Not a bit. Rescue from the mountains is out of your wallet, and there is agressive pursuit of recovery.
post #65 of 79
i've noticed quite a few resorts over the past several seasons that post warning signs about going out of bounds and that any rescue attempts undertaken will be done at the cost of the victim/victim's family.

my buddy's usually make the joke "You better hope that your family REALLY loves you before you take off down that run."

post #66 of 79
I think I remember seeing in Whistler, a few years ago, signs saying "trail closed", but there were gaps in the closure fences, and tracks leading through them. I remember a local saying "in effect that run is now out-of-bounds terrain and it's like skiing through a gate". It was very early in the season.

Maybe someone in W-BC can confirm that policy? It seems more similar to what SSH is referring to.

Of course it's very different in a lot of US resorts, where closed means closed and ducking the rope means a fine or jail sentence.

Daslider, I suppose, when judging what is "off-piste", skiers must take into account the views of three bodies: their insurance company, the rescue services, and the local law enforcement bodies.
post #67 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Bell View Post
I think I remember seeing in Whistler, a few years ago, signs saying "trail closed", but there were gaps in the closure fences, and tracks leading through them. I remember a local saying "in effect that run is now out-of-bounds terrain and it's like skiing through a gate". It was very early in the season.

Maybe someone in W-BC can confirm that policy? It seems more similar to what SSH is referring to.

Of course it's very different in a lot of US resorts, where closed means closed and ducking the rope means a fine or jail sentence.

Daslider, I suppose, when judging what is "off-piste", skiers must take into account the views of three bodies: their insurance company, the rescue services, and the local law enforcement bodies.
Four. Your own body.

As far as I know, there are soft closures at WB. I know I've skied quitre a number of them.
post #68 of 79
Thread Starter 
Martin Bell writes "I suppose, when judging what is "off-piste", skiers must take into account the views of three bodies: their insurance company, the rescue services, and the local law enforcement bodies."

That's about it, which gives you at least 3 different meanings for starters.

Does it come down to trespass? Lift tickets are in effect licences to use the area for a given time, so if you are 'asked' not to use certain bits, it is a breach of that contract and surely withdrawing the licence is the worst that can happen? Trespass is a civil not a criminal offence in the UK and normally needs to demonstrate damage of some sort so I can't see how just skiing down a hill without anything extraordinary happening needs to involve the police etc.

Ski tourers who don't buy lift tickets surely dont even have such licences in the first place, so who are they offending?

Obviously if you cause some damage, cause a slide or collision injuring someone, then you have only yourself to blame and to be answerable for damages. Do mountain regions have specific laws against actions likely to cause avalanches as opposed to actually causing them (which might always be negligence anyway)?

I was just trying to imagine ssh's story from the point of view of the ski area and what little they can do to stop people going where they want to go.
post #69 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by daslider View Post
Martin Bell writes "I suppose, when judging what is "off-piste", skiers must take into account the views of three bodies: their insurance company, the rescue services, and the local law enforcement bodies."

That's about it, which gives you at least 3 different meanings for starters.

Does it come down to trespass? Lift tickets are in effect licences to use the area for a given time, so if you are 'asked' not to use certain bits, it is a breach of that contract and surely withdrawing the licence is the worst that can happen? Trespass is a civil not a criminal offence in the UK and normally needs to demonstrate damage of some sort so I can't see how just skiing down a hill without anything extraordinary happening needs to involve the police etc.

Ski tourers who don't buy lift tickets surely dont even have such licences in the first place, so who are they offending?

Obviously if you cause some damage, cause a slide or collision injuring someone, then you have only yourself to blame and to be answerable for damages. Do mountain regions have specific laws against actions likely to cause avalanches as opposed to actually causing them (which might always be negligence anyway)?

I was just trying to imagine ssh's story from the point of view of the ski area and what little they can do to stop people going where they want to go.
Pretty far off from US law.

If the land is private, tresspassing is a criminal offense. Some states have laws that make trespassing on ski areas or out of bounds areas more stringent than ordinary trespassing. You can be fined or jailed.

Yes, you can be sited for entering an area that is closed due to the potential for human caused avalanches.

Areas that are located on public lands have some sort of contract that either allows them to control access or requires them to do so.

In other areas, the laws are quite different. In the wilderness area that borders our ski area, the law allows anyone to acess at any time - provided they use no machinery, chainsaws or other defiling actions - including avalanche control. The ski area only controls how you re-enter the area. Other than that, you're on your own...but if you must be rescued, you will pay the bill. If you survive. THAT's off-piste.
post #70 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Bell View Post
I think I remember seeing in Whistler, a few years ago, signs saying "trail closed", but there were gaps in the closure fences, and tracks leading through them. I remember a local saying "in effect that run is now out-of-bounds terrain and it's like skiing through a gate". It was very early in the season.

Maybe someone in W-BC can confirm that policy? It seems more similar to what SSH is referring to.
As an Instructor, we're not allowed to take anybody into areas marked closed, marginal, or out of ski boundary. There are a few other areas that are no go zones too for certain levels of classes.

As a regular punter if you venture into a closed trail, then you are on your own with respect to rescue etc.
post #71 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by daslider View Post
Ref post 60, are you somehow saying your being with ski instructors makes it ok, unless you were paying for their guiding services?
I know diddly about insurance in Europe and what "off-piste" means. As a result, I took the input from the instructors, and they said that it wasn't an issue and it was just now effectively "off-piste". Since they are restricted in what they can do legally, I assume that they know what's ok and what's not. That's what I know. All this "insurance" talk is just weird. I'd call around and ask for insurance that will cover me wherever I want to ski and be done with it.
post #72 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by ssh View Post
I know diddly about insurance in Europe and what "off-piste" means. As a result, I took the input from the instructors, and they said that it wasn't an issue and it was just now effectively "off-piste". Since they are restricted in what they can do legally, I assume that they know what's ok and what's not. That's what I know. All this "insurance" talk is just weird. I'd call around and ask for insurance that will cover me wherever I want to ski and be done with it.
Steve, this thread was started by the very daslider, regarding the definition of off-piste in US/CANADA.

I believe that question has been sufficiently answered: it means diddly squat in N. America!

As for the European definition? At best, the conclusion so far is "it depends". Depends on what? God knows. Given there're scaresly less than a handful of EUROPEANS participating here, and I might add, none of them ever work for an insurance company or any ski resorts in Europe, I would take whatever they conclude with a heavy grain of salt.

Your instructor friend said it's off-piste. I would take their word over what's posted on a non-european ski forum! Glad you enjoyed the skiing there.
post #73 of 79
I have skied in Europe quite a bit and strictly speaking, "off-piste" means anything outside the "piste markers", be it 1 metre or 1 kilometre away! (A yard or 0.6 of a mile )

at NYC, I think you are quite right, there is no real like-for-like translation of the term "off-piste" in N America. There is only "in-bounds ungroomed terrain", and "out-of-bounds ungroomed terrain".

Where, perhaps, the European situation may change in future, is if more resorts follow the lead of Zinal and Tignes, and introduce avalanche-secured "freeride zones", which would correspond more closely to the N American "in-bounds ungroomed terrain".
post #74 of 79
Thread Starter 
Martin Bell

what you describe in Tignes is sensible and I would hope will spread. It will however be a considerable extra burden on the Ski Areas to manage such schemes. How does a place like La Grave operate? So many people now want to, and are facilitated by new equipment to venture off the pisted runs that it is simply unrealistic to think they will all have done avalanche training etc. It is an expected part of a holiday and sold under the 'freedom' label.

Some US reaction here to insurances is curious, as if the words 'small print' do not exist over there. In any free market insurers will strip down cover to offer apparently cheaper premiums, which surely is how we end up with all this small print some of which takes any idea of 'freedom' out of off piste skiing. I would be surprised if all US skiers are covered by their health ins for virtually any outcome, don't they get into premium excesses for dangerous sports etc?

at nyc

if we are allowed to widen conversations here beyond the N Amercian experience, I was interested in all off piste skiing and how the various views might crossfeed. American snow is much like any other to be buried under. So my original question was wider in its intent than you understood it to be. And yes, it is of concern to the many Euroskiers who travel to the States. And probably should be vice-versa.

No one really gives a monkeys if you want to break your own leg, it is your freedom to do so, but when your actions might affect others there is legitimate concern with misunderstandings over such simple ideas as 'what is off piste?'. It isn't really very complicated.

Ssh

I am sure we can agree to differ on this. Runs are not marked closed for the fun of it, and it is certainly is an issue in Europe to ignore such signs. 'He told me it was ok' is no better an explanation than it would be in a bank robbery. I find it hard to imagine that the only reason US skiers might obey such requests is because of the legal sanctions.
post #75 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by daslider View Post
Ssh

I am sure we can agree to differ on this. Runs are not marked closed for the fun of it, and it is certainly is an issue in Europe to ignore such signs. 'He told me it was ok' is no better an explanation than it would be in a bank robbery. I find it hard to imagine that the only reason US skiers might obey such requests is because of the legal sanctions.
Please reread what I have written!

I was with an instructor each time. In one case, he was instructing. He was being paid and was under his normal licensing limitations. I was not the only "charge" that he had. We had ridden a chairlift over the run in question and wondered why it wasn't being skied. When we got to the top, we saw why: it was roped off. He shrugged and said, "Oh, well, that's all right, we'll just go 'off-piste'." And around the fence we went.

At Deux Alpes, I was with a local Deux Alpes instructor. We skied to the base on the run that I posted pictures of earlier in this thread. She had skied that run on the last day of the season every year since she moved there 11 years ago. She mentioned it to multiple people in town, including a number of the piste patrol folks who we met at the Ski Extreme party that night. It was clearly not an issue for anyone, and was accepted as a perfectly fine decision she had made.

Given these two anecdotes, I reckon I'll take their perspective over many others.

In the US such a decision is moot: It's illegal to cross a closed boundary. If you ski out of bounds in the US, you are on your own. Your health insurance is unlikely to cover extrication, although it is likely to cover any injuries.
post #76 of 79
If I can just go back to my earlier comment, and Martin Bell backed it up: in Europe, off-piste is outside the marked trails. That's it. It's not hard.

ssh: your instructor may have taken you past a rope, but in so doing he was taking the responsibility ... which means, had there been an accident, his or the ski school's insurance would have been liable for rescue/aid given to his students.

And if they refused to pay - remember, he may have been taking a considered risk based on your perceived ability to ski and handle the conditions, the risk being that he was breaking the rules and hoping to get away with it - you might have had an action against him to recover the costs that your insurance company would certainly have refused to pay. That action would have to be based on your trust of your employed instructor following the rules; the first question in court would be: 'Did you ask your instructor if it was legal to do this?', European courts being quite big on personal responsibility.

Had you skied past that rope, onto a closed run, by yourself, your insurance (assuming you had some, and I really hope you did) would have been instantly invalidated.

I have spent much time over the years finding insurance that allowed me to ski off-piste in Europe. The small print changes every time, so you have to be aware of what's going on ...
post #77 of 79
Thread Starter 
Thanks ssh

that's a good explanation. Your initial posting made no mentions of the local instructor/guides, and gave the impression that in Europe for anyone to duck under the rope was not an issue. Clearly if you are with someone with such local authority/expertise it is another matter, but it is not the same thing at all as the free for all that might have suggested. I would still maintain that without such specific authority, it is an issue.

What you say about US medical ins probably not covering extrication in US is interesting in that they must in effect limit 'off piste' cover, which means its definition is of some importance for US skiers as well.

The extent to which local ski schools are often unrealated to the area management and therefore whether they ultimately do hold such authority to ignore such signs is another matter, but I am sure your average tourist would reasonably expect their paid instructor to get these things right.

French ski instructors can be pretty cavalier about such things and the term 'off piste' in this situation sounds more like gallic 'elan' than an accurate use of the 'off piste' terminology, where many definitions would categorically rule out cover on any officially closed areas.
post #78 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by daslider View Post
What you say about US medical ins probably not covering extrication in US is interesting in that they must in effect limit 'off piste' cover, which means its definition is of some importance for US skiers as well.
In the US, medical insurance covers medical. So, for instance, if you need to get an ambulance ride, it's likely that it is not covered by your medical insurance (although some of the more comprehensive insurance will). It may be covered by your auto insurance if you're on the road, etc. Similarly, if you require rescue, you may have various coverage in your insurance that would cover it, but you'd want to know for sure before you headed out into the wilderness (whether in the winter or any other season). Flight for Life ain't cheap.
post #79 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by daslider View Post
The extent to which local ski schools are often unrealated to the area management and therefore whether they ultimately do hold such authority to ignore such signs is another matter, but I am sure your average tourist would reasonably expect their paid instructor to get these things right.
I think you should expect an instructor to know at all times where he is allowed to take you.
It's however not really a matter of 'holding authority to ignore signs' I think. Since The lift company has no real authority to ban anyway from going anywhere AFAIK. It's not like they are the law, and they almost never actually own the land (certainly not if it's off-piste). Therefor I don't think you can get arrested or fined in europe for ignoring a closed sign. Or am I misinformed!? Anyway I never got in trouble :P However: putting someone else in harmsway by going off-piste, due to avalanche danger for example, makes it an whole other case ofcours!

The main restriction on where an instructor is allowed to go is his training I believe. In Austria for example Landes and Staatlicher(sp?) ('level 2' and 3) instructors are only allowed to take guests within 100 meters of an opened run, on non glaciated terrain. A skifuhrer has the authority to take a person basicly anywhere he deems safe. Lift-company signs do not really matter.

There are ofcours exceptions, like signs that state it's forbidden to tresspass, or emergence laws in case of high-avalanche danger; but in general you won't be breaking law if you ignore a closed sign. I think.

In anycase it's best to have full coverage for emergencies etc. on the mountain. In case anything does go wrong, that leaves your insurance fighting with the insurance of your ski-instructor, instead of you fighting a legal battle in a foreign country!
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