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December 2005

Peak Performance

Brush up your Skiing Etiquette

The chill in the air is a not-so-subtle reminder that the ski season is upon us again. But before you head for the hills, it’s worth brushing up on mountain etiquette to maximize your enjoyment and minimize accidents.

As with most outdoor sports, the weather plays a major factor. Always check conditions—call the Deutscher Alpenverein weatherline on Tel. 0900 129 50 70 from Germany or Tel. 0900 91 15 66 80 from Austria—and be aware that mountain weather changes suddenly.

Perhaps one of the biggest risks is the avalanche (Lawine). Tempting as it may seem to hit the slopes as soon as the sun comes out after a heavy period of fresh snow (more than 20 cm in 24 hours), this is the time when you’re in greatest danger. Always follow the advice of piste controllers and stay out of off-limits areas (Lawinensperrgebiete). If you are unlucky enough to be caught in an avalanche, clear yourself an airspace and do a butterfly swimming stroke. For extra security, buy skiwear fitted with sensors to improve your chances of being rescued.

Even in less dramatic circumstances, it’s important to pay attention to your behavior on the slopes. You’re not the only one out there, so be considerate of other skiers and snowboarders. Keep your speed under control and remember that the person in front of you always has the right of way (Vorfahrt). When approaching someone from behind, choose your route carefully—according to the Deutscher Ski Verband (DSV), passing is allowed from above or below and from either side, but leave the other skier space for movement, be it voluntary or involuntary.

Be aware of signs and markings. Stay off closed (gesperrt) trails, keep out of restricted areas and slow down when you see caution postings. Figure out which trails match your skiing ability and stick to them. Don’t attempt a run that’s too difficult and risk hurting yourself—or take on a bunny hill that’s far too easy, and put all the poor beginners at risk!

Always make sure you know when the last lift runs and plan your skiing accordingly, as rescue is expensive—you’ll pay € 70 per minute for helicopter recovery. This is unlikely to be covered by health insurance, but the DSV offers a variety of insurance options which do cover such incidences, as well as ski loss and theft and medical costs. Packages start at € 27.40 for a year—for details see their Website:

On the piste, know when to stay out of the way. If you have to take a breather, don’t do it in a space where it’s difficult for others to see you—always stop on the side of the trail. If you’ve fallen in a blind spot, get up as quickly as possible and move to a place where you’ll easily be seen. Likewise, if you’re going up or coming down the hill by foot, keep to the side.

Skiers aren’t the only thing you’ll need to avoid—watch out for the piste bashers too. The DSV recommends keeping a distance of at least 15 meters in front and behind, and three meters from the side. On steep slopes, be aware that even if the vehicle is in front of you, you could fall and slide into it. Keep your distance!

Try as we might to avoid them, accidents do happen. Should you witness one, you are obliged to come to a person’s aid, whether or not you’re involved or responsible. If you fail to do so, you’ll be reported and could be charged with failure to render assistance (unterlassene Hilfeleistung), according to the DSV.

It may sound like a lot to think of at once, but commit these tips to memory, and it’s downhill all the way.

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