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Swiss prosecution could impact off-piste skiing

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

http://pistehors.com/news/ski/comments/0995-swiss-prosecution-could-impact-off-piste-skiing/?gid=995000

 

Article from Pisthors about the prosecution of 3 off piste skiers who probably triggered an avalanche that buried a girl (recovered alive) and affect others on piste.

post #2 of 10

 "Swiss freeriders are concerned about a move to American style laws were off piste skiing is strictly controlled"

 

I have only skied twice in Europe, so my understanding is limited, but where on the one hand it's nice to have the freedom (and responsibility) of skiing wherever you want, on the other, such situations made me nervous. We had only one day, in Lech-Zurs, where the avy danger was high, but geez, skiing on piste, I was always looking around (above me) a little nervous like. It's a concern in the backcountry here, but most places aren't so easy to get to as riding a lift, so your fellow skiers are hopefully a bit more educated about what they are doing. Interesting topic, though. Wonder what will come of it...

post #3 of 10

Not only "Swiss freeriders"

 

Italy is a place where the "sidecountry" (aka skiing off-piste right beside a marked trail) is widely spread and practiced.

I've observed an increase in press report and sensationalization of accidents that has in its turn ignited an attitude akin to the one reported above. Granted, the accident there has been serious, but to aim to a widespread ban to off piste skiing w/o any prevention...

I can speak for the italian situation only, but here the "patrollers" as an insittution,  as a mean to prevent avalanches is not in use, so, to forbid without setting up a whole preventive structure and organization...is IMHO sensless.

 

post #4 of 10

Hi M.

 

Thought I would pop by here and see if the Swiss news had got over to your side of the pond. I see it has.

 

For anyone interested in reading details of how this might impact on skiing off piste and your Insurance, which could become a major issue for us depending on the result of this case. You are welcome to visit my facebook group page on Les Arcs Ski and Snowboard Info.

 

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=134900026541300&ref=ts 

 

Lots of details about Les Arcs and the paradiski area as you would expect but if you go into the discussions section and have a look at the Insurance discussion. It might be interesting for you. I do not know how those from the USA take out cover for coming to Europe for skiing off piste. It would be interesting to hear your views.

 

Hope to see some of you in Les Arcs maybe.

post #5 of 10

I spent four season based in Anzere and know exactly where this happened. The top part of this run is a long piste that is actually a valley with a long ridge of mountains on either side, especially the skiers left side. As long as I can remember everyone cuts wide to the skiers left and skis's the powder down to the piste. By everyone I mean ski school, ski patrol, locals, young and old. It has always been my understanding that this was an avalanche controlled area and that it was ok to ski this bit of off piste. In fact the whole ridge above to the left is a very big avalanche risk and as such they only open the run when it is has been blasted to make it safe.

About 12years ago in Anzere the helicopter crew were doing some blasting there and set off a bigger avalanche than they anticipated, and about a 1-2km ridge gave way and everything ended up in the valley/piste run. It took out some lift pylons. I got to ski by the pylons and they were twisted. It was quite amazing.

post #6 of 10

If this was a avalanche triggered on a slope above a piste that then ran on to the piste, control work should have been done. That's standard operating procedure. Or am I missing something?

post #7 of 10

The ski patrol can not always be on time with the avalanche risks, and when that happens they clearly post the "no off-piste" signs, and the necessary rope barriers. To go out at this time in this place is very irrespectful, because any avalanch there will end up on the groomed track.

I live there.

post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 


 


Quote:
Originally Posted by ami in berlin View Post

If this was a avalanche triggered on a slope above a piste that then ran on to the piste, control work should have been done. That's standard operating procedure. Or am I missing something?




I am not sure if that is official policy in Europe, but that is how it seemed to work in the season I spent in Les Arcs.  There were certain off piste areas above pistes that they regularly did patrol work or blasting with some of the top lifts not being open until this was completed.  

 

Not sure what the Swiss are trying to accomplish, but this seems like a really weak case to bring if you believe the defense which said that the slope was already well tracked and that it was being used by instructors to teach off piste skiing.  If I was looking to prosecute a case like this (which I am not), it would seem much easier to prove if it was a single skier with strong evidence that they were the sole cause of the avalanche.  If others were already skiing on the same slope, how can you prove who "caused" the avalanche.  Suppose it might be easier if you had video, but with multiple skiers on the slope, it seems hard to point the finger at 1, 2 or 3.  

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeK View Post

The ski patrol can not always be on time with the avalanche risks, and when that happens they clearly post the "no off-piste" signs, and the necessary rope barriers. To go out at this time in this place is very irrespectful, because any avalanch there will end up on the groomed track.

I live there.


Was there a "no off-piste" sign and ropes up in this case?  If so, the prosecution might be easier, but I found it very inconsistent on how "closed" signs were treated (at least in France).  Early season it seemed as if they would open a lift and start allowing skiers to go down an area (both marked, but ungroomed runs and unmarked off-piste) with marginal snow coverage.  I recall the first time that the area under the Varet lift at Les Arcs was skied in December '07, they partially lowered the ropes, but still had the closed sign up.  There were several ski patrol at the top watching dozens of skiers go by.  I wasn't sure what was going on, but decided to ski it after an instructor took his students down.  Later heard another instructor give an ambiguous explanation saying something along the lines that it was forbidden but allowed.  My take-away was that with marginal coverage (but nice powder) the ski area wanted to allow skiers to go down (and skier pack the run), but didn't want to take responsibility if they hit a hidden rock.  Once all the powder was tracked out and the rocks exposed, the closed sign was removed.  I saw similar things a few other times early season, including at Espace Killy.  Later in the year, it seemed as if they kept the lift closed when Av risk was high (or before finishing with control work), then opened when they were ready for skiers.     

 

The article I read said the Av risk was 3/5...the only time I recall seeing it 2 or less was when it hadn't snowed in at least a week or more.  1000s of skiers go off piste every day in Europe when the av risk is 3.  Judgment must be used more than in the US, but I think the ski resort should keep pistes closed (or do control work) if they are worried about slides from above.


Edited by MEfree30 - 11/12/10 at 10:09am
post #9 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeK View Post

The ski patrol can not always be on time with the avalanche risks, and when that happens they clearly post the "no off-piste" signs, and the necessary rope barriers. To go out at this time in this place is very irrespectful, because any avalanch there will end up on the groomed track.

I live there.


If that were the case (that the ski patrol had not yet had the time to secure the slope), then the piste ought to have been closed (and even the the lift should not have been running). The safety of the piste is the responsibility of the ski patrol and the resort. If they failed in their responsibility, the liability should lie with them.

 

And yes MEfree30, closed signs are put up for any number of reasons (that often include nothing more than there being a couple rocks on the slope) and are thus routinely ignored. It would be nice if there was a way to indicate a difference between "stay of this slope because it may kill you or others" and "there are some rocks on this slope and we will not be held liable for damage to you skis".
 

post #10 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by ami in berlin View Post



Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeK View Post

The ski patrol can not always be on time with the avalanche risks, and when that happens they clearly post the "no off-piste" signs, and the necessary rope barriers. To go out at this time in this place is very irrespectful, because any avalanch there will end up on the groomed track.

I live there.


If that were the case (that the ski patrol had not yet had the time to secure the slope), then the piste ought to have been closed (and even the the lift should not have been running). The safety of the piste is the responsibility of the ski patrol and the resort. If they failed in their responsibility, the liability should lie with them.

 

And yes MEfree30, closed signs are put up for any number of reasons (that often include nothing more than there being a couple rocks on the slope) and are thus routinely ignored. It would be nice if there was a way to indicate a difference between "stay of this slope because it may kill you or others" and "there are some rocks on this slope and we will not be held liable for damage to you skis".
 



Not necessarily. That place can stay stable for weeks, as long as no one skis on the forbidden slope. In general, the interdiction signs are there when there is serious danger, not because you might scratch your skis.

In that particular case, the skiers knew very well they had no business being there, and clearly caused the avalanch. I fail to see where the ski patrol can be held responsible within the conditions decribed.

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