Ski resort introduces speed limit
By James Cove
BBC News in Grindelwald, Switzerland
Ski resorts across Europe are looking at the possibility of imposing speed restrictions on some slopes.
People are getting used to speed limit
This season Grindelwald, in Switzerland, has become the first resort to introduce a 30km/h speed limit on one of its runs and other resorts are watching closely.
A random survey of two dozens resorts by BBC News reveals all are looking at the experiment and some may now impose further speed limits in certain areas.
The issue has sharply divided the ski community; some welcome the safety move as long overdue while others fear it will severely curtail their freedom.
It follows a growing number of collisions caused by people skiing too fast as the slopes become ever more crowded. In France last season the number of collisions on the slopes went up 15% and included several fatalities.
Susanne Daxelhoffer from the area's Tourist Office told the BBC News website said the Grindelwald slope had been a great success.
Susanne Daxelhoffer says it is what skiers want
"We did it because that's what people wanted," she said.
"The project is based on complaints of people skiing too fast and therefore fulfils a need".
The slope in question is divided by safety netting and skiers opt to ski down an easy blue run with a 30km/h limit or go for a more difficult red slope without a restriction. A random selection of people I canvassed on the slope in Grindelwald all thought it was a good idea.
"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," British skier and father of three, Richard Slater, told me.
However, not everyone welcomes the move and it has sparked a fierce debate on ski chatrooms on the internet. The Ski Club of Great Britain has more than 30,000 members and though many are broadly supportive others fear it will restrict their freedom.
One person has even threatened to give up skiing altogether if there are further restrictions. On another internet chatroom, Snowheads, feelings have been running just as high with many critical of new rules and regulations.
"Although on the surface it seems a good idea people should have the freedom to go as fast as they like as long as they are in control," says Iain Martin the director of Natives, the organisation representing British resort workers in The Alps.
"People want to live freely in the mountains not be told what to do all the time and if some resorts introduced speed limits people would just go elsewhere."
The development reflects the situation in America where dangerous skiers have their lift passes confiscated and people have even gone to jail for skiing out of control.
Skiers at Grindelwald
Fast skiers are warned but not fined
Many areas are patrolled by officials who keep people's speed down and there are slow areas with speed limits.
In Grindelwald those skiing too fast are not fined, just warned to slow down.
European resorts are undoubtedly paying more attention to safety with netting positioned to slow people down at busy junctions and safety rules positioned more prominently.
In Andorra security patrols have the power to take away lift passes from people skiing too fast and some Alpine resorts including, Val D'Isere, have patrols who look out for dangerous skiers.
As high speed lifts take more and more people up the slopes the pistes are getting more crowded. Next week is half-term across Europe and the slopes will be at their busiest with medical centres preparing for hundreds of casualties - some caused by speeding skiers.