If avalanches weren’t bad enough, now you have to be on the lookout for drunk skiers! According to ski patrol monitors in Austria and in France, there is a growing problem of dodging inebriated skiers.
To my mere observation and train of thought, skiing certainly seems to require much more athletic skills, motor coordination and balance than sitting behind the wheel of a car. With downhill skiing, hitting speeds well over 100 kilometers per hour, you would need acutely coordinated and instantaneous cerebral muscular interactions or else!
Not only do you have to avoid other skiers and of course trees and huge rocks, but handling all the twists and turns needed to ski, while inebriated can be rather difficult with a few beers under your belt! Additionally, alcohol has the marvelous capacity to heighten a false sense of confidence, that can easily seduce any skier to take on a slope beyond his level of expertise!.
Alcohol related skiing accidents are on the rise according to Austrian and French Alpine ski resorts. A study done in Austria found one in five skied drunk and that 29% of all accidents were attributed to an alcohol level higher than .5 grammes alcohol per liter of blood, which is the legal level to drive in both Austria and France.
Not surprising, the major offenders are the younger skiers, who come not only for a week of intense thrill seeking but for all the peripheral pleasures associated with snow resorts. Party time on the slopes gets in high gear by noon of each day, after a few morning downhill descents ,working up an appetite for an afternoon of booze and conviviality.
Dancing high on open air table tops or snow covered slopes, while mists of falling snow tickle your face might make for great fun for those inclined and be fairly innocuous, as long as the skis remain leaning against the walls.
Putting skies on a pair of already unsteady legs, is like handing a dangerous weapon to a kid. Unleashing them to navigate down a slippery mountain reaching tremendous speeds is not only life threatening to themselves, but the other sober skiers in their path.
Ski authorities in both countries point fingers more in the direction of tourists from the United Kingdom and Scandinavian. Both have a reputation of being heavy drinkers, whose ideas of a fun night out is getting ass dragging drunk.
My own little glimpse of Scandinavian drinkers was this summer, when I was blown away by the mountains of alcoholic beverages purchased on the ferries heading back to the Scandinavian countries from Estonia and Russia.
The popular French alpine resorts of Val d’Isere, Val Thorens and Meribel, in an effort of prevention, have decided to try to sensitize the public about the dangers of skiing after drinking alcohol. Breathalyzers tests are now sold in discotheques, bars and restaurants on the slopes.
Many clubs are now limiting the sale of alcohol to beer, wine and champagne. Whether or not that will have any impact is yet to be seen, as merry making skiers can certainly imbibe enough of those lower alcohol beverages to be as wobbly as the hard stuff.
Regardless of the beverage, any thing over .5 decreases motor reactivity and lateral vision. By .8, you will have a decrease in vigilance, reasoning , concentration and problems in coordinating and synchronizing movement
The boosts of confidence from alcohol and decreased reasoning make for dangerous bedfellows on snow-covered slopes. Since the majority of avalanches are triggered by the victims that risk dying in them, ignoring avalanche warnings are easier to do with the false sense of security that alcohol enhances.
Adding fuel to the fire, is the increasing number of skiers skiing “hors piste” or off manicured and monitored slopes. With clouded reasoning and decreased concentration to details, boozing skiers would pay much less attention to avoiding these dangerous thrill seeking slopes.
Many French snow stations are now giving out fines to those found skiing drunk. Likewise, thy have sanctions to remove anyone perceived inebriated from the slopes or prevent them from skiing.
A lot of personal is involved in bringing down injured skiers on stretchers, and accidents caused by alcohol, then those skiers will be made to pay extras for these services. Additionally, besides being fined, they risk even doing jail time.
The slippery slopes will always attract the athletic minded for fun and shere pleasure of racing down a mountain, but risks abound, even for those well-trained sober athletes and professional skiers.
Broken bones, however painful are not generally life threatening nor impairing, but spinal injuries, asphyxiation, and cerebral concussions are. Prince Friso, brother of the Dutch king ,died last year after a year-long coma, from skiing off piste, triggering an avalanche.
Recently at Sochi, Russian olympic skier Maria Komissarova, suffered a paralyzing spinal injury and famous German race car driver, Michael Schumacher remains hospitalized in a coma from a fall in December.
This Louisiana girl gave up skiing after two frightening attempts in Vermont and in Innsbruck, Austria; therefore I am writing as an observer, not a skier. Growing up on the flatlands of the Mississippi delta, being in high altitudes already make me somewhat uneasy.
The brief time I lived near the French Alps, I marveled more over the snow caps views, rather than being on top of them. Just hearing the whooshing sounds of skiers flying past on slopes was frightening enough!
I did enjoy hiking in the snow, but trekking around on rackets or snow shoes was my pinnacle of snow sports. I am much more at ease being a snow bunny in front of a roaring fire, or in a bubbling spa, sipping my cold glass of roussette de Savoie, or champagne and enjoying my tartiflette, thank you.
I know some of my faithful readers are accomplished skiers, so I would love to hear from you thrill seekers. Whether or not any of you may have, in your more carefree and mindless moments, skied under the influence, I am sure you could share a few anecdotes of your own!