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SKI

How safe are France’s ski resorts?

Two deaths on the ski slopes in the space of a week have lead to questions about the safety of France's ski resorts. But in fact, fatal accidents remain rare.

Ski slopes in the French Alps
Ski slopes in the French Alps. Photo: Jeff Pachoud/AFP

The question of ski safety has been raised after two tragic and high-profile incidents that occurred within a week – a five-year-old British girl died after an adult male skier crashed into her in the Alpine resort of Flaine and the French actor Gaspard Ulliel died at the age of 37 after an accident while skiing in La Rosière, Savoie.

Investigations are ongoing into both deaths.

But how unusual are fatal skiing accidents in France?

The past two years have been unusual ones for the ski industry – the 2019/20 season was cut short by the pandemic in March and the 2020/21 season was largely wiped out by lockdowns – but going back to the 2018/19 season, eight people died while skiing in France.

Between 2009 and 2020, deaths per season ranged from eight to 14.

By contrast, hundreds of people die on the roads every month. In 2018, which was a low year for road deaths, 3,259 people died.

Every month, around 20 cyclists die on French roads.

There are; however, quite a lot of people injured while skiing – on average 100,000 injuries are counted in ski resorts, ranging from sprains and bruises to broken bones and fatal head injuries.

Only 5 percent of ski accidents require an immediate transfer to hospital and in just 0.1 percent of cases are people helicoptered off the slopes to hospital.

But it seems that skiing in France is becoming more dangerous, and that’s due to the increase in avalanches.

While deaths relating to crashes on the slopes seem roughly stable, the number of avalanches in French ski resorts is increasing, due to rising temperatures and climate change.

During the 2020/21 ski season all ski lifts were closed, which means that people opted mostly for cross-country skiing rather than using maintained ski runs – and were therefore a lot more vulnerable to avalanches.

Between the beginning of December 2020 and the end of April 2021, 27 fatal avalanches resulted in 37 deaths of cross-country skiiers.

Now that slopes and lifts have reopened and most people have returned to skiing on maintained slopes, the industry hopes that deaths due to avalanches will fall.

If you are skiing in a resort you will get warnings for avalanches and instructors will tell you which areas to ski in, but the increasing frequency of avalanches means that risks remain.

Collisions between skiers account for just five percent of all accidents. The vast majority of injuries are caused in single-person accidents – when skiers fall, crash into objects like trees or get caught in an accident. The most common places for collisions are blue runs – where the beginners normally ski.

The investigations into the latest two deaths may lead to extra safety recommendations around issues like speed on the slopes and helmets wearing rules, depending on the findings.

In hopefully temporary safety measures, there are also currently a number of Covid-related health restrictions in French ski resorts.

LATEST: The Covid rules in French ski resorts

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TRAVEL

‘IT problems’ blamed for cancellation of flights from French airports

The French holiday weekend of Ascension has been hit by travel problems after Easyjet cancelled dozens of flights.

'IT problems' blamed for cancellation of flights from French airports

Easyjet announced on Thursday that it would have to cancel several dozen flights, many of which were set to depart from French airports like Paris Charles de Gaulle, Lyon, Toulouse and Nice.

The British budget airline tweeted an apology to the customers impacted, explaining that ‘IT system issues’ were to blame. 

In total, 200 flights across Europe were affected, confirmed the British newspaper The Independent.

Several customers expressed frustration at the hours-long wait times, many taking to Twitter to vent, like this user below:

So what happened?

Easyjet has not been very specific about the issue aside from explaining that the root of the problem was a computer system failure. They announced quickly that they were working to restore their systems and that in the meantime customers should continue to check Flight Tracker in order to verify the status of their flight prior to leaving for the airport.

While flights were set to resume on Friday, Thursday’s cancellations have had a domino effect, bringing about further delays and cancellations for flights originally scheduled for Friday. 

If you have flights booked, it is best, as stated above, to keep an eye on Flight Tracker in order to avoid potentially long wait-times at the airport.

Will passengers be compensated?

While Easyjet initially explained the IT problem as “beyond [their] control” and an “exceptional circumstance,” the company eventually retracted these statements and released a new statement saying that “Customers can request compensation in accordance with the regulations.” Here is the link to their website to find out more.

If you plan to request a refund, be advised that under European regulation for air passenger rights, travellers should be entitled to compensation between €260 to €410 per person depending on the duration of the flight, with the latter representing flight distances of over 1,500 km. Read more here.

Since Brexit, passengers departing from the UK may no longer be covered by the European compensation rules.

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