13 February 2020 from Danielle in Latest news

The director of the Austrian ski resort of Großarl has officially resigned and the reason he stated for his resignation was the numerous drunken skiers who ski back to the valley every evening. Not only do they disrupt the work of the ski patrol and other staff members, they also regularly provoke dangerous situations and can cause serious accidents. The director claims he no longer wants to take responsibility for the drunken skiers.

Drunk winter sports enthusiasts skiing down to the valley

Like many ski resorts in Austria, Großarl has a lively après-ski scene with many on-mountain bars where skiers and snowboarders can enjoy a drink after a day of skiing. Once the sun sets, the party keeps going in the valley. But this means that drunken hordes of skiers and snowboarders must make their way on skis or snowboards from the on-mountain bars down into the valley, often provoking serious accidents especially as this is the time of day when the staff are busy preparing the slopes for the next day.

piste basher
Skiing while the piste bashers are out is dangerous, and doubly so when skiers are drunk

Near miss from a piste basher

The day after Christmas, a drunken skier lay in the snow. It was already dark and the driver of a piste basher saw him at the last minute, narrowly escaping crushing him with the piste basher. This was the last straw for the ski area's director, who submitted his notice of resignation shortly thereafter. And he's not the only one - the Großarl family doctor has also resigned from the post of volunteer mountain rescue doctor.

Something has to change

Grooming the slopes is dangerous enough as it is, and skiers and snowboarders have no place on the slopes while the piste bashers are out for the evening. Unfortunately, slope closures are regularly ignored, leading to serious accidents in many cases. This is unfair to the ski resort staff, who suffer emotional trauma as well as potential legal action. This is why, in the eyes of many ski resort staff members, something has to change. There are calls for stricter supervision of closed-off pistes, among other measures. But, although the municipality of Großarl is hard at work searching for a solution, it's more complicated than it sounds. A number of regulations have been in place since 2006 and have been amended several times, but it's not enough. 

Alcohol limits on the slopes?

Among the ideas that have arisen in response to the problem is the proposal to limit alcohol consumption on the slopes, just like when driving. The idea is attractive to many staff members, although it would be difficult to enforce. Any such regulations would have to be enforced by the state ski resorts themselves, as the police are not equipped to patrol all the ski slopes. Obviously, this would require a huge increase in manpower. And, according to Austrian police, the percentage of incidents on the slopes that are due to alcohol is very small. Some ski resorts in Salzburg have already helped reduce the number of accidents by keeping the slopes open until the on-mountain bars are closed, allowing skiers time to get down to the valley before running into the piste bashers.

Born and raised in the ski paradise of Vancouver, Canada, I learned to ski before I can remember, balancing precariously on my parents’ skis as they sailed down the hill. I started snowboarding in my teens and am now delighted to be exploring everything Europe’s ski scene has to offer!