After Michael Schumacher, a retired German race car driver, sustained a serious head injury on December 29 when his head hit a rock while off-piste skiing in France, focus has turned to the dangers involved in this sport.
Off-piste refers to any area not marked out for use by skiers. These areas often include rocks, cliffs, ungroomed snow, and avalanches. Though there are no statistics to prove that this type of skiing is any more dangerous, accidents like Schumacher's raise questions.
In fact, on December 28, one day before the 44-year old hit the unmanned slopes, the Alpine Prefecture warned skiers in the Alps to use extreme caution after avalanches claimed seven lives in two days.
An article in The Telegraph warned skiers and snowboarders "to stick to marked slopes rather than venturing off-piste." A day later, Schumacher was severely injured. The avalanche warning remains in effect.
So what should lovers of the sport to do avoid these risks?
The Telegraph gives some advice on precautions to take:
- Ski with a qualified guide.
- Pay attention to snow conditions.
- Do not consume alcohol before skiing.
- Wear a safety helmet. Though Schumacher is still hospitalized, had he not been wearing a helmet, doctors say he would have died on the slopes.
- Purchase ski travel insurance. (Some insurance companies require helmets for coverage.)
- If you venture off-piste, carry a transceiver, probe, and shovel. Also, understand the risks involved.
Schumacher is still in critical condition in a hospital in Moutiers with a traumatic brain injury. He is currently in a medically-induced coma.
Image via Wikimedia Commons