Jail threat to skiers who go too far off-piste

Italy expected to rush through legislation after deadly weekend on slopes

After the deadliest weekend in the Italian mountains of the winter, ministers are expected to rush through legislation introducing huge fines and possible jail terms for skiers and climbers who flout avalanche warnings.

Eight people died and 10 were seriously injured in five incidents across the Italian Alps at the weekend. Some of those killed or injured had chosen to ignore official advice and entered areas that were marked as dangerous.

Now, in an attempt to reduce the Alpine death toll, the Italian government is pushing through an amendment to civil protection law that will enable courts to hand out jail terms to people found to have triggered deadly avalanches, and €5,000 (£4,400) fines for those who ignore warnings and go off-piste.

A spokesman for the Italian Senate said the proposals were widely expected to be passed and so would become law by the end of this month. Therefore, it is likely that the regulations will come into force in the current ski season.

The development follows calls from experts, including Guido Bertolaso, the head of Italy's civil protection unit, for stronger deterrents against reckless off-piste activity. He demanded more regulations at the end of last year when four rescuers died after going to the aid of two tourists who had ignored avalanche warnings to go climbing in the Italian Dolomites.

This weekend hundreds of mountain rescuers and several helicopters were in action again, after a series of incidents across the Italian Alps. On Monte Baldo in the Veneto region, a 250m avalanche killed two skiers, aged 20 and 17, and seriously injured a third, after they ignored warnings and went off-piste. Two more people, a man, 56, and a woman, 62, died after a huge sheet of ice fell on them while they were out walking in Valle Antigorio, again in an area that had been declared unsafe.

In Monte Grona in Lombardy, a man, 55, died after being hit by an avalanche while out walking on Sunday afternoon. His wife, 49, died in hospital later that day. A 50-year-old mountain lodge owner was found buried under several metres of snow at Valsassina on Saturday. The eighth person to die was a 50-year-old off-piste skier at Cimon di Palatina, who was struck by an 800m-long shelf of snow. His two companions survived, thanks to signalling safety devices in their jackets that alerted rescuers.

The introduction of jail terms and €5,000 fines would make Italian resorts the most strictly regulated in Europe. Austria and Switzerland are currently considered to be the toughest Alpine countries. In Switzerland, fines of 1,000 francs (£600) have been handed out to irresponsible skiers, some have been asked to pay damages and pay for rescue operations, while others have had their ski passes confiscated and been put on resort blacklists.

Ski Deaths

Swiss authorities have also warned that convictions are possible under existing laws. In January, six people were reported to the Valais canton prosecutor for allegedly triggering avalanches that swept on to "safe" pistes in Anzère and Zermatt. But penalties specifically designed to reduce the number of avalanches are a new development.

Luca Mercalli, a snow safety expert at the Italian Meteorological Association, said yesterday that while it was possible to reduce the dangers of avalanches, no laws could remove the risk entirely. "It could also be difficult to show that someone was actually guilty of causing an avalanche," he added.

Reinhold Messner, an Italian mountaineer who made the first solo ascent of Mount Everest without oxygen supplies, feared the new Italian law could end the adventurous aspect of mountain activities. "With this type of law we're going to kill Alpine pursuits," he told Italian news agency Ansa. He proposed instead, "a debate with mountaineers, guides, judges and the police" to establish "where tourism ends and real Alpine activities begin".

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
love + sex
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers