• Mountain Safety

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW

No sport can rival skiing for the combination of stunning scenery and exhilaration.

Whether you are an expert skier who loves to rocket down the pistes at warp speeds or a tentative beginner refining your turns, there’s much to enjoy. But danger lurks around every corner.

The mountainous terrain, changeable weather, high speeds and the behaviour of others all pose threats to your safety.

Here’s how to remain safe at Les Contamines, both on and off the pistes.

Improve your safety on the pistes

Many pistes will appear to be relatively benign, especially when the sun is shining, but don’t be fooled. You can’t control what other skiers and snowboarders do and conditions can change in a matter of minutes.

The International Ski Federation (FIS) has developed rules of conduct which apply to anyone who uses the pistes.

These are designed to ensure that everyone remains safe and the rules are as follows:

Skiing safely off-piste

Life gets considerably more dangerous when you venture into the back country. It is important to learn how to ski off-piste and that is best done with the assistance of a mountain guide or a qualified instructor. A guide will be able to read the conditions and take you to the safest areas.

Skiing off-piste presents additional dangers for a variety of reasons. You can easily become lost and it is a lot harder to make your back without the benefit of a lift system. The terrain is unpredictable and features hidden hazards such as rocks just beneath the surface of the Snow. There is always the risk of an avalanche or dramatic changes in the weather conditions.

Here’s how to minimise the risks off-piste:

  1. Check the weather forecast and avalanche forecast before you set off.
  2. Consider avalanche forecasts carefully as the risk may only be present in certain areas of the mountain.
  3. Avoid any slopes where you can’t see the bottom from above.
  4. Don’t linger on or beneath avalanche pathways.
  5. Never ski alone.
  6. Avalanche pathways should be crossed by one person at a time.
  7. Be alert for warning signs of avalanches including evidence of recent avalanches, cracking snow, recent heavy rainfall, high winds and rapid rises in temperature.
  8. Always take an avalanche transponder, shovel and probe with you.
  9. Consider investing in an avalanche airbag system.
  10. Invest in avalanche rescue training.
  11. Practice searching for a transponder and digging for a victim.

Ensure your bindings are correctly adjusted

Poorly adjusted equipment is the primary cause of knee and leg injuries while skiing. Bindings are the main offenders and so it is vital to ensure that they are correctly adjusted to your height, weight and skiing ability.

Adjustments are best performed by a professional in a reputable ski shop. You should pay particular attention to your bindings if you have borrowed your skis.

Always wear a helmet

You may not welcome the idea of wearing a ski helmet, but it could save your life. It’s tempting to think that you won’t come to much harm if you are slowly wending your way down a blue run, but ice can be as hard as a tarmac road. You don’t need to be travelling fast to injure your head in a fall and an out of control skier could collide with you at any time.

Around 20% of all skiing accidents involve head trauma and head injuries are the leading cause of death and disability among skiers.

Modern helmets are light, comfortable and highly efficient. With the latest cool and funky helmets to choose from, safety doesn’t have to cramp your style!

Accidents – What to do

If you are involved in an accident, you witness an accident or you discover an injured skier, it is vital that you remain calm and take the appropriate actions. Panicking, dithering and waffling will all make a bad situation much worse! Here’s what you need to do:

  1. If you are not the injured party, secure the area. You can protect the injured person by planting crossed skis or a snowboard above them.
  2. If there is someone with you, post them further up the slope to warn other skiers.
  3. Check that the skier is breathing and that their airway is clear.
  4. Cover any wounds and apply pressure.
  5. Help to keep the injured person warm.
  6. Do not give them any food or drink.
  7. Alert the rescue services and state your name and the name of the injured party.
  8. State the location of the accident clearly and concisely, mentioning the piste name or number, the nearest piste marker or an obvious landmark.
  9. State the number of people involved and the type of injuries.
  10. While you are waiting for help to arrive, try to establish the facts of the accident and collect contact details
  11. Report the incident to the police.
  12. If you are not the injured party and do not have a phone or a mobile signal, ski down to the bottom of the lift and report the incident. Speak simply and concisely to overcome any language barriers and to save time.
  13. If you are injured yourself, attract the attention of passing skiers.
  14. Explain any injuries clearly. Inform your helpers of what they need to do if they are unsure.

Style matters, fun matters but safety matters more

Nothing feels more liberating than completing a great run with the sun on your face and the wind rushing past. Skiing is amazing fun and you can also enjoy sporting a cool designer jacket or testing out the latest equipment. However, a black eye will quickly ruin your image and a broken leg or worse will prevent you from skiing at all. Safety should be your primary concern, for your own benefit and that of others. You can’t remove all risk of an accident, but you can make disaster considerably less likely.

Getting the Buzz

There are a few further steps you can take to improve your safety without impacting your enjoyment of the sport. Always dress appropriately for the conditions as you will tire more quickly if you are cold. Freezing extremities will decease your level of control. Never ski if you are tipsy or drunk and work on your general fitness before you travel.