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Ski Insurance And Speed Cameras On Pistes - Do We Need Either?

Feb 2, 2008
It was inevitable wasn't it? The introduction of speed cameras on ski slopes.

Is it the thoughtlessness of a handful of daredevil speed demons that have messed up the fun for the rest of us? Or is this health and safety gone crazy again? Have we as a human race become so irresponsible that we need the Nanny State to protect us from ourselves even when we're out trying to spend our hard-earned cash on holiday and having a little fun?

Well, sadly the statistics are not good. With the high number of accidents, injuries and deaths at ski resorts throughout the world every year, it does seem that something has to be done. The number of skiing accidents has noticeably increased in Switzerland alone, with accidents in the tens of thousands last year, many of which were fatal or caused serious injuries. The number of helicopter rescues also increased - to the tune of hundreds in just one month.

So, the Swiss have had enough and are putting speed cameras on the slopes. Ski personnel will catch the speeders with hand-held radar gadgets. Those who are caught are given a warning first, and then could face a fine or confiscation of their ski pass. The cameras are in operation at Andermatt and will also be in operation at other major resorts like Davos, St. Moritz and Zermatt. Some may applaud Switzerland for taking a stand - but will this new trend catch on in ski resorts throughout the world?

In a perfect world, we'd all be at liberty to hurl ourselves down the slopes and not have to worry about anyone else. We'd never get hurt or killed or injure another innocent person. It is because we don't have this ability that anyone who sets off on a ski trip without taking out travel insurance and winter sports coverage should have their head tested. If you're not aware of the potential astronomical medical expenses associated with helicopter rescues, serious injuries and broken limbs (especially in North America) then it's time for a wake up call!

The beautifully groomed pistes may be partly to blame. It's hard to resist pointing the board or tips down the hill and just going for it. But on crowded slopes it just isn't smart. There's no question that skiing and snowboarding and other winter sport activities can be very dangerous. If you've ever had a run in with a tree, or another skier and survived it you will already know what a painful impact it can be.

Just as on the roads, we can't always blame the people driving at high speeds. It is possible they are totally competent and in control - even if they are breaking the law! The problem is often other people on the roads (or pistes). If you come up behind someone going slow on the road (or piste) and want to overtake them it is always potentially hazardous. You just can't know what the other person is going to do. You also don't know if another car is going to pull out of an unseen side road (or out of the trees), or a deer (or snow machine) will suddenly appear in front of you.

The drink driving laws have just about taken all the drunks off our roads, but on the slopes you are still likely to come across someone who's partaken of a bit too much Gluhwein during their lunch stop. No one stops them strapping on the skis or board and potentially endangering the lives of others. Then there are the novices skiing out of control on slopes beyond their abilities. Skiing in flat light can also be dangerous, no matter how experienced you are. You can't see all the bumps and dips in the terrain - or the icy spots - and if you hit them at great speed you may find yourself heading for a tree or another skier, and there's nothing you can do to stop that impact from happening. It could be expensive at best.

Tests using dummies have been carried out (like the ones they do with cars). It was shown that speeds above 19 mph (30km/h) are unsafe. Speeds much above that figure are highly likely to cause fatalities if something goes wrong.

So will speed cameras on slopes be a trend that is likely to spread throughout the world at all ski resorts? For many it will take all the fun, excitement and thrill out of it. Will speedometers on skis be the next trend? How else can we monitor our speed or have any idea how fast we're going? Will there be speed limit signs posted at the sides of the ski runs that we have to obey, as on the roads?

Speed is not the only danger when out skiing. This ski season twenty-six people have been killed by avalanches in Europe in less than one month! The average annual number of people killed in avalanches in the U.S. is around twenty-five, but often much higher. Other weather-related hazards cannot be ignored, such as blizzards and sudden changes in the weather and conditions.

Who would have thought we'd see the day they put speed cameras on ski slopes. What's next? Ski insurance and winter sports coverage is not mandatory, but perhaps it should be...
About the Author
Jean Andrews is a freelance writer living in the UK. She regularly contributes articles for TIA Ltd who offer great deals on ski insurance
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