Speeding Skiers Face Jail Time

by : Roger Munns

Reckless skiing is a real problem in some areas. Those disobeying the speed limit signs in Utah may face jail time and fines.

The speed limit was put in place in certain areas where less experienced skiers are trying to learn the sport. Reckless behaviors of others have caused 10 percent of all collisions in Park City and Deer Valley. A report in the Salt Lake City Tribune states that reckless skiing is now considered a Class B Misdemeanor.

Ski patrollers will be monitoring the slopes in search of people disobeying the speed limits or skiing recklessly. The ski patroller can now call the police, and the offenders may find themselves in court. If a reckless skier is called to court, the patroller will be called in as a witness to the incident. If skiers are found guilty of reckless skiing, they will be fined 1,000 USD and face a six-month jail sentence.

Some ski resorts in Europe are also adopting the ski speed limit, including Switzerland's Grindelwald and Verbier. Pierre-Yves Deleze with the Verbier Tourist Office said, 'The idea is to allow beginners to learn without people skiing by them too fast and frightening them.'

The problem isn't simply fast skiers. Other reckless behaviour also endangers other skiers on the slopes.

'We did it because that's what people wanted', said Susanne Daxelhoffer at the Grindelwald area tourist office. 'The project is based on complaints of people skiing too fast and therefore fulfills a need', Daxelhoffer added.

Swiss ski resort Grindelwald was the first European resort to introduce a speed limit on one of its slopes. A growing number of high-speed collisions on crowded slopes helped fuel the decision to implement the 30kmph speed limit. France reported several deaths in the 2006-2007 ski season due to high-speed collisions.

Resort owners hope to combat deaths and injuries by decreasing speeds on crowded and beginner slopes.

Richard Slater, a British skier and father of three told reporters, 'It's particularly good if you have young children and want them to be able to ski without being hit by out of control skiers going too fast.'

According to BBC News, a study of 24 resorts reveals that all are keeping an eye on the experimental speed limit enforcements.

Speed limits for skiers and snowboarders might soon become commonplace on slopes around the world. The resorts of Park City and Deer Valley, both in Utah, are the first to implement a fine and jail time. Grindelwald and other European resorts that are adopting the ski speed limit do not plan to fine offenders. There they are simply warned to slow down.

When the proper amount of care and respect are given, skiing in general is a relatively safe sport. Some members of staff and skiers at the affected resorts are torn. They can see the importance of safer skiing, but some feel the punishment far exceeds the crime.

Some skiers see the new law as a way for authorities to control what they do in their leisure time. These skiers feel the law imposes unfair restrictions on a fast-paced, thrilling sport.

Skiers on the other side of the fence believe the law will stop some skiers from recklessly skiing and putting others in harm's way. This law gives less experienced skiers hope that they can safely enjoy their time on the slopes.

A Swiss insurance group is installing timers on certain slopes. These timers allow people to see their speeds and should encourage them to ski within set limits. Ski resorts world-wide hope the implementation of timers and patrollers will help make the slopes safer for more inexperienced skiers.