Published on : Saturday, January 4, 2014
Off-piste skiing is a natural call for adventure seekers who wish to put in everything into an adventure holiday and come out alive, regardless of the barren snow capped cliffs. Those who have been there consider off-piste matchless and inspire those yet to go, of birdsong and rhythmic crunch of new snow under ascending foot.
Oft read chronicles on piste suggests a truly picturesque locale where generously spaced firs rising from several feet of waist-deep snow lend their long bending arms to the forlorn skier, just to imagine sweeping down through those trees at speed, thighs pumping as you plot a course on the fly can make any aspiring skiers adrenal run. And as a pro says “Part skiing, part freefalling, you travel through rather than on the snow, bounding over drops as if vaulting flights of stairs scattered with pillows.” That’s what Off-piste promises.
These irresistible images are indeed tempting and do call skiers in large numbers. But accidents and fatalities in this spot have led to much speculation regarding these amazing tourist’s spot especially after that of the Former F1 champion Michael Schumacher who is fighting for his life in a French hospital after suffering a head injury in an off-piste skiing accident.
So is venturing off-piste dangerous? Off-piste refers to any area not marked out and maintained for use by skiers. Off-piste slopes are not groomed by snow ploughs, so rocks, precipices and cliffs may not be easy to spot, especially in poor visibility. But the biggest risk is avalanches, according to experts.
Pistes are rather treacherous and ski resorts do not have the same responsibilities for off-piste areas. People die frequently in these zones. In the last two days seven people have died in the Alps from avalanches. It is said that 24 to 26 people die each winter in France from avalanches. In 2009 actress Natasha Richardson died after hitting her head on a beginner’s piste. She was not wearing a helmet unlike Schumacher who may have been saved a bit for his helmet.
Falls often lead to head injuries. And there is a greater risk of hitting a rock in the marked piste. Insurance policies often demand a supplement be paid for skiing holidays and may explicitly rule out off-piste, or demand that skiers take guides.
Most skiers venturing on off piste locales are generally trained and know how to avoid collisions. Collisions on the piste are regular occurrence and that’s part of the reason helmets have become so popular. Off-piste has become mainstream tourism idea in the past decade. Planning for avalanches by taking good local advice and safety equipment accidents can be cut down to a minimum in the piste zone. So those longing for true adventure, the fearless lot who defy the usual and stick to general safety norms find off- piste an ideal holiday spot.