Every year dozens of holiday skiers return to Britain on stretchers and a few in coffins. Now the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is launching a don’t-drink-and-ski campaign in an attempt to cut the number injuring or killing themselves on the slopes of France, Switzerland and Italy.
Posters at airports, stations and ski resorts will warn Britons “that alcohol can affect you more quickly at high altitude and limit your awareness of danger and cold.
Your reactions are slower, reckless behavior can lead to crime, alcohol abuse can simply ruin your holiday”. The message is also being printed on beermats.
The move comes after a government study found that a third of British skiers and snowboarders aged under 25 were involved in accidents or mishaps caused by a mixture of “alcohol, altitude and adrenalin”. The British consulate in Lyons, central France, said that at least 30 Britons died in the French Alps last year, half aged under 25. The region attracts about 400,000 British tourists every winter.
He said officials were concerned that tour operators were promising high mountain drinking sessions to holidaymakers who were unaware of the risks. The campaign also aims to encourage holidaymakers to take out insurance to cover injuries caused during extreme sports such as snowboarding. A total of 31 per cent failed to do so, according to the Foreign Office survey.
Nedjib Benammar, head of orthopaedic surgery at Albertville hospital in the Alps, said that 70 per cent of skiing accidents occurred after lunch, with tiredness or alcohol a contributing factor. “The rate rises partly because people have too many drinks at lunchtime, and partly because they go on skiing right until the end of day when they really need a rest.”
The surgeon — a member of the French Centre for Study and Research on Snow and Avalanches — said he wanted a limit “like there is a drink-drive limit”. Under French law, drunken skiers can be prosecuted only if they cause an accident.
French resort officials often complain about drunk Britons, but Dr Benammar said they were no more accident prone than other nationalities. “They are bon-vivants, so everyone knows that they’ve been out drinking. But others drink in private,” he said.