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Slow Slopes

Three winter sports resorts banking on Slow Slopes 

The Swiss National Accident Insurance Fund (Suva), the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention (bfu) and Swiss Cableways (SBS) are promoting leisurely skiing and safety on the runs. In 2009/2010, as part of a three-year pilot study, designated “Slow Slopes” were introduced for beginners and skiers who like to take it easy. More experience is being gathered this winter. If the Slow Slopes lead to the expected “traffic calming”, newly marked runs will be introduced in as many skiing areas as possible.

Slow skiers and thrill-seekers getting in each other’s way is to become a thing of the past at three winter sports resorts: Zermatt, Thyon and Grindelwald. As part of a pilot study, these ski stations have created marked runs reserved exclusively for slow skiers and snowboarders. The dedicated Slow Slopes are a joint project of SBS, Suva and bfu. 

No place for daredevils 
“In recent years, the breakneck speed beloved of some snow sports enthusiasts has often been discussed in the media. On the one hand, conditions in these sports have evolved in such a way that people can go faster; on the other, experts blame speed for causing accidents,” says Samuli Aegerter, Suva representative for the snow sports campaign. “By introducing Slow Slopes, the promoters of the scheme aim to strike a contrast, promoting lower speeds on the runs as well as safety.” The Slow Slopes are intended for all those who like to take it easy on the pistes. “Daredevils have no place here: everyone using these slopes has to slow down and show consideration. Apart from the desired “traffic calming” effect, it helps reduce the number of serious accidents. Everybody involved – skiers, snowboarders, Suva, bfu and the cableway industry – want the same thing: fewer accidents. The wish from all sides is for greater awareness about the issue of speed on the slopes.
Thumbs up in Grindelwald and Zermatt 
Grindelwald installed a low-speed slope – the Tempo 30 Piste – as long as six years ago. Since then, the accident rate in the area of this run has steadily decreased. Zermatt had its first experience of Slow Slopes last winter. “Everyone reacted very favourably: the slow runs meet a real need,” says Christen Baumann, CEO of Zermatt Bergbahnen AG. For him, it is an obvious move for Suva, the bfu and Swiss Cableways to join forces in the campaign. “Having Slow Slopes as part of Suva’s snow sports campaign enables us to reach far more people than if individual ski resorts were to publicise the special runs.” 

The three winter sports resorts taking part in the pilot study will install Slow Slopes on heavily used blue runs – those preferred by beginners, slow skiers and snow sports schools. To ensure that skiers and snowboarders can easily recognise the low-speed runs, they will be marked with “Slow Slope” signs. Suva is funding most of the cost of materials during the pilot phase. Anyone caught speeding rather than gently gliding on Slow Slopes will be reprimanded by the piste patrol, who will be in action mainly when the runs are at their busiest. However, as Samuli Aegerter is keen to point out, the idea is not to spoil the fun of those who love speed, but to protect the more vulnerable on the slopes. “There are plenty of challenging runs for experienced skiers and snowboarders,” stresses Christen Baumann. 

Visitors to be asked their views 
A first assessment of the results of the pilot project will be made at the end of the ski season. This will include a survey conducted by Suva on the spot. The views of the piste patrol and rescue services will also be included in the evaluation. If the Slow Slopes are seen to be meeting a need of snow sports participants and the project is helping to calm speeds on the runs, the goal of all concerned will be to offer the Slow Slopes scheme in other winter sports resorts in the 2011/2012 winter season.

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