Flying High

Imagine your worst nightmare. A phone call to your parents telling them that their child is in hospital. A small mistake: one big accident.

Such an experience happened to a close friend of mine whilst on a skiing holiday. In fact, she still shudders at the memories when retelling the story three years on. We all know the dangers of skiing, but that ‘wouldn’t happen to me’ attitude is often taken a little too far once on the slopes. Maybe it’s the change in altitude, the schuss-induced adrenalin hit, or a couple of Vin Chaud at lunchtime, but we often make mistakes when we forget the very real dangers of such a popular sport.

My aforementioned friend, Rosie, is like any of us, up for a laugh and a challenge along the way. As an advanced skier she is always rummaging around off-piste to find a tantalisingly fresh run. One afternoon however, her outlook was changed forever. Whilst on a gentle run with her boyfriend she decided to do some experimenting off-piste, her judgement failed her and she woke up in hospital. Her memory of the accident is like that of a snowy wipe-out; very blurry and rather painful. Rosie took a tumble and seriously knocked her head in the fall, her boyfriend describes it as watching a toy doll rolling helplessly down the mountain. She was moments away from being airlifted to hospital but instead was rushed down to the local hospital in the resort on a blood wagon.

Unable to fly home for weeks after suffering from a brain hemorrhage, Rosie was told that the only factor that had saved her from death was her helmet. For novice skiers or snowboarders helmets may seem like unnecessary attire, yet it is misconstrued facts such as these that lead to danger. Whether the first time or the twentieth time, research and preparation for your travels must be undertaken in order to ensure the top level of safety and enjoyment. Rosie was lucky she had comprehensive travel insurance that covered the air ambulance and hospital bills from the accident. However, her lack of knowledge of the piste she was skiing on led her into danger.

Accidents such as these can happen even with the most detailed preparation, however, throw alcohol and Folie Douce spirit into the mix and you’re asking for trouble. In light of the upcoming Easter Ski Trip, we all must be more aware of the dangers. According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) serious injuries such as Rosie’s happen at a rate of about 43 per year. In 2009/10 season there were 39 reported serious injuries, with only about 18 of those involved wearing a helmet.

Before we get snow deep into fatal facts and severe statistics, let us not lose sight of the reasons we take part in winter sports in the first place; surely it is the sheer ecstasy of the ice cold wind blasting away the hazy memories from last nights après-ski, as you descend at speed down the mountain? The evolution of the ski resort has come a long way; 4,000 years to be exact when the first pair of skis were used in Scandinavia. The amalgamation of luxury bars, restaurants, clubs and hotels has made the ski industry the most popular outdoor winter activity and multi-million pound industry.

Rosie was unlucky, but accidents always have a preventable aspect to them. Avoid a repeat of the lesson Rosie has learnt and prepare properly with the correct equipment and state of mind before venturing up that chair lift. And if such a mishap should happen, make sure you are in control of the consequence by having the correct insurance and the details to deal with it.

Lydia Shelton

For more info about how to prepare for trips abroad, go to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at and follow them on Facebook ( or Twitter (


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