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Dangerous Skiing

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New York, NY
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Dangerous Skiing

This is probably the wrong Forum for this subject, but I am raising it here because it was continuously discussed while I was in Zermatt, among among the ski instructors and local business people who are friends. The subject is the extraordinary increase in deaths and critical injuries on the pistes. I am not talking about a blown knee or broken shoulder, but rather the kind of injuries suffered in a car crash.

People are crashing and colliding at high speed and paying a deadly price. Here are the thoughts as to the causation:

Short skis make it easier to learn to ski, and people are on the pistes and moving fast before taking proper lessons and learning control.

Everyone is skiing faster.

Carving skiers are flying at high speed using all of the piste--a crash is deadly.

Helmets are providing a false sense of security and encourage risk. Two skiers wearing them died in crashes.

Slow skiing signs are universally ignored and people are even doing high speed hockey stops at lift lines.

Strict patrols of the kind we have in the US and Canada are unheard of. Perhaps not for long.

There is too much drinking. A 22 year old instructor crashed and died skiing drunk down an easy piste while giving his girlfriend a piggy back ride. Enough said.

Then, as usual, someone died skiing off piste without a guide. There is no cure for that.

This is food for thought. Any opinions?

Germany
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1. Re: Dangerous Skiing

Sad, but well known facts.

Definitely the wrong forum.

Anchorage, Alaska
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2. Re: Dangerous Skiing

While this isn't about how to travel in Switzerland, it is about travelers in Switzerland to a great extent. Many if not most of those skiing on Swiss slopes are traverlers from elsewhere.

It doesn't help that many are also skiing for the only time in the season because they are on their only ski holiday from places where there is no skiing. It makes it all the more exciting to ski with speed, drink a lot, etc.

I personally don't think ski patrols here are as aggressive as they could be sometimes and I have never seen anyone stopped or heard of a lift pass being "lifted" in Zermatt. Being on the catwalk up on Gornergrat or some other places around Zermatt is, at times, darn near heart stopping with people flying by at high spead and pretty much out of control.

If anything can be done to encourage patroling of the slopes in a more aggressive manner, I would certainly support it! It plays a role in my thinking about continuing to ski as I get older and about whether I really want to keep teaching my grandson. I bet I'm not alone. Therefore, it affects how many will be skiing in 10-15 years and so how much tourism there will be for Switzerland in the winter. Most important, of course, is that it will save lives if the resorts decide to actively discourage or prohibit this kind of behavior.

Maybe an active campaign with the tourist office(s) will help.

Martigny...
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3. Re: Dangerous Skiing

Gotlegal -

you raise a very valid point and one that has concerned us for many many years and in the end led to us stopping skiing.

And I do not think this is the wrong forum at all as it concerns many visitors to our country, and in fact MOST winter visitors! (As well as those of us who live here).

Here are my comments - for what they are worth!

1. there have been a lot of articles in the local press this winter about particularly dangerous skiing, related to the snow conditions that we have had and the dramatic increase of the use of "artificial" snow. Apparently this latter has created a very thin layer of snow over what is otherwise ice, with the consequence of a huge rise in injuries. One of the articles - from le Temps, a very respected paper - indicated that the number of rescues effected by helicopters this winter has increased 50%.

2. I totally agree that many people do not respect others on the pistes and neither do they respect the "slow skiing" signs - which are, it must be admitted, relatively new.

3. I also agree that more strenous "enforcement" of basic skiing etiquette and rules is needed. That said, I have seen and heard of people having their lift passes confiscated in Verbier. But only a few cases each season, not some each week... and the general conduct on the slopes would lead one to think that the latter would be more the norm.

The only suggestions I have are: Either do as we did and stop skiing OR put pressure on the ski lift operators to patrol more efficiently. The first option has the effect of removing oneself from danger... the second is very hard to do!!

rhode island
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4. Re: Dangerous Skiing

I was aware of the increased number of injuries but unaware of the deaths. I do not wear a helmut and take a lot of grief for it but some helmut wearers have earbuds on while listening to music and do not know what is going on around them. Yes something should be done but how do you teach common sense and courtesy? I also noticed a few runs in January where the snow was really skied off (I blame snowbords) and seemed a bit more dicey. By the way, why is the man made snow in Cervinia different (I dare say better) than that made in Zermatt? Maybe it is my imagination but I heard they use a different process there. I am a devout Swiss fan but is it possible the Italians have a better process? Anyway I also heard a well know billionaire blew out his knee after getting hit by a speeding teen. No one is apparently immune from potential injury.

Martigny...
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5. Re: Dangerous Skiing

I have no idea if the Italians use a different method but what I can say is that the snow is always different on the south side of the Alps. This year they got really dumped on while we got some flakes!! (It also poured with rain in the Tessin!) It could be that...

This accident stuff has been in the works for a long time, I think. There has never been the "controls" on the pistes here the way there is in the USA and Canada, and I believe there should be. My daughter - who in a previous incarnation was a World Cup snowboarder - says that the great problem with the snowboarders is that it is relatively easy to learn compared to skiing and the young (who think they are invincible anyway!) then go up on the mountain and are out of control... She also says that she thinks that the snowboard teachers do not spend enough time drumming in safety rules to their students. I think she is right.

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6. Re: Dangerous Skiing

I have to confess I have never seen any "policing" of the ski areas in Europe. I have not yet become a helmet wearer either as I don't do much off piste among unknown/rocky terrain. On my recent trip to Zermatt the busiest areas where the narrow tracks linking the different areas together. The best piece of advice to remember is that the person/people below you have right of way. In my experience if a piste is busy just enjoy the scenery for a minute until the throng go past. Also keep the drinking until Après Ski time!!!!!

Martigny...
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7. Re: Dangerous Skiing

All good advice JoeDevlin except that you should wear a helmet, even if you do not go off piste!

New York, NY
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8. Re: Dangerous Skiing

My wife and I don't wear them either.

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9. Re: Dangerous Skiing

I know the rationale FOR the wearing of helmets and as night follows day, in Europe it will one day be compulsory. My hearings dodgy on one side and I personally feel more aware of other skiers around me without one (on piste).

Martigny...
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10. Re: Dangerous Skiing

If I skied, I wouldn'tlike to wear one either - I never wore a hat or ear muffs when I skied because I like the wind in my hair, no matter how cold. (!) But there is no doubt wearing one makes things safer...