Speeding down a piste at Verbier in March 2014, a skier hit a German tourist from behind. The German tourist was skiing normally, but because he was hit from behind, he had no chance to avoid the impact, which dislocated his shoulder and broke one of his bones. The other skier broke his ankle, however his problems were just starting. The injured German decided to lodge a court action against him.
Bas-Valais prosecutor Patrick Burkhalter, based his judgement on the International Ski Federation (FIS) code of conduct. “These rules spell out how we must behave on a piste”, he said, explaining that it’s like the rules for hunting or driving on the road.
The 10 FIS rules for the conduct of skiers and snowboarders
Rule 1: Respect for others
A skier or snowboarder must behave in such a way that he does not endanger or prejudice others.
Rule 2: Control of speed and skiing or snowboarding
A skier or snowboarder must move in control. He must adapt his speed and manner of skiing or snowboarding to his personal ability and to the prevailing conditions of terrain, snow and weather as well as to the density of traffic.
Rule 3: Choice of route
A skier or snowboarder coming from behind must choose his route in such a way that he does not endanger skiers or snowboarders ahead.
Rule 4: Overtaking
A skier or snowboarder may overtake another skier or snowboarder above or below and to the right or to the left provided that he leaves enough space for the overtaken skier or
snowboarder to make any voluntary or involuntary movement.
Rule 5: Entering, starting and moving upwards
A skier or snowboarder entering a marked run, starting again after stopping or moving upwards on the slopes must look up and down the slopes that he can do so without endangering himself or others.
Rule 6: Stopping on the piste
Unless absolutely necessary, a skier or snowboarder must avoid stopping on the piste in narrow places or where visibility is restricted. After a fall in such a place, a skier or snowboarder must move clear of the piste as soon as possible.
Rule 7: Climbing and descending on foot
A skier or snowboarder either climbing or descending on foot must keep to the side of the piste.
Rule 8: Respect for signs and markings
A skier or snowboarder must respect all signs and markings.
Rule 9: Assistance
At accidents, every skier or snowboarder is duty bound to assist.
Rule 10: Identification
Every skier or snowboarder and witness, whether a responsible party or not, must exchange names and addresses following an accident.
This skier “…was skiing faster than his visible stopping distance allowed and did not give priority to the skier ahead of him” he said in summary. He could see the skier below him, however the other skier could not see him. He was convicted of simple bodily injury and given a 15 day judicial fine at CHF 70 a day and a CHF 300 additional fine.
Fortunately accidents like this are rare in Switzerland. The prosecutor Patrick Burkhalter said the majority of cases are dealt with amicably. People stop and talk. Court appearances are the exception. Every year close to 40,000 accidents are recorded in Switzerland. 9% are collisions and only 4 or 5 incidents end up in court, most often due to disputes over the facts. The rest are sorted out directly with insurance companies, based on the FIS rules.
In 2014, three off-piste skiers accused of setting off an avalanche that injured two skiers on a marked trail at Anzère in 2009, were convicted according to Le Matin.