A French ski instructor is facing the possibility of an 18 month prison sentence if found guilty of manslaughter after his client died in an avalanche. It's news that couple prove disastrous for the ski industry.
Back on 9th December 2010, the independent ski instructor was out with his client, a surgeon from Aix-en-Provence region in the south of France, exploring the backcountry in Val d‘Isère.
The pair were caught in an avalanche that resulted in the instructor suffering a broken leg, but cost the other skier his life. Now the instructor is appearing in court and, if found guilty of the other man's death, could face an 18 month prison sentence.
"a guilty verdict could prove disastrous for the entire ski industry"
A guilty verdict would set a very worrying precedent that could have massive implications for the entire ski industry. It would suggest that ski instructors would immediately have a heightened Duty Of Care - a legal responsibility to look after those they're teaching - when taking customers out to the mountain.
As such, ski schools and private guides may begin to refuse to take clients into the back country through fear of legal action being taken against them should an incident occur.
In turn, this would no doubt also increase the cost of Liability Insurance for all instructors - a financial implication that would undoubtedly be passed on to the paying customer.
In an ideal would, nobody would get hurt while on the mountain. However, the risk is always there. This season in particular has sadly seen a lot of lives lost to avalanches - including those of very experienced experts and professionals.
Guides and instructors should always be aware of the risks, and take all precautions necessary to ensure the safety of themselves and the people they're in the mountains with.
Of course, there is also an onus on anybody straying of the groomed piece to ensure they know what they're doing should they find themselves or their party in a dangerous situation.
The decision of the French court, expected on 22nd May this year, will no doubt have huge implications not only for the industry, but also for everybody that likes to spend their time on the snow.