SI Vault
Edited by Martin Kane
April 27, 1970
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April 27, 1970


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Neither was Bourseiller a prophet. Less than half a century later there are so many human chamois on the pistes that Alpine experts talk seriously of installing traffic signals, stop signs and speed limits. And "off balance" skiers are provoking so many accidents that there's even more serious talk about having gendarmes police the piste.

Indeed, the Italians are already doing that. Their ski police give skiers tickets for "traffic violations."

The Italians may have grown accustomed to being policed in the two millennia between Caesar and Mussolini, but if there's one thing 50 million Frenchmen agree on, it's their hatred of cops.

"When I hear the words 'ski traffic code,' " says Paul Moranne, head of the law committee of the International Ski Federation, "I always shudder. I see in the distance the kepi of the gendarme, and I hear his whistle. Ah, non, pas cela!"

Dominique Delafon, a 28-year-old Grenoble lawyer and crack skier, studied 300 cases involving ski accidents for his doctoral thesis and has just published Ski, Law and Liability.

"I discovered that from the beginning of skiing until around 1960," says Delafon, "the courts felt anyone who went skiing accepted the risks. Very rarely did judges convict a skier for bumping into another skier." One judge referred to crowded skiing conditions as "the most amiable of anarchies."

All that has been reversed in the past decade, Delafon says. French courts have decided that the skier higher up on the slope has a responsibility to avoid a skier lower down. They take into consideration such questions as whether a skier was tackling a slope beyond his competence, and so on. All French cops can do at the moment is take notes and interview eyewitnesses but, adds Delafon, "The day gendarmes are permitted to give skiers tickets, there's going to be trouble on French slopes.

"In five or ten years," he concluded, "there will be so many skiers on the piste that we'll have to have a ski traffic code. And how can you enforce it without gendarmes?"


An inquiring reporter for The Barringtonian, a student publication of Barrington ( R.I.) College, circulated among girl students on campus asking questions about baseball. Answers were enlightening:

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