On Wednesday 13 January 2016 our in-house adventurer, Peter Windatt, was on his way to the bottom of Les Deux Alpes glacier to participate in a world record attempt :- a torch-lit descent of 10km, a drop of 2,000m along with some 3,000+ other participants. The event was to be a celebration of the opening of a new blue run, “Jandri”.
Sadly, as he was en-route to take up a warm position in a restaurant prior to the descent, news was received in the cable car that there had just been an avalanche on one of the closed black runs at the resort and that, worse still, several skiers were known to have been in the area at the time. The ski-instructors were quick to respond. Having ensured that we knew what we were supposed to be doing, where we were going etc. they left us to attend the scene of what, it transpired, had been a fatal accident.
The world record attempt was, relatively quickly, called off as the pisteurs who would have been overseeing things were all, rightly, helping systematically probe the snow and look for victims. Their painstaking work carried on past midnight in cold and hazardous conditions.
Having called the world press to the resort to witness the world record attempt it was inevitable that the journalists would be quick to respond to what had become a tragedy. Our adventurer was asked by a TV reporter and camera/sound crew, at a lift station the next day, when catching one of the first of the lifts going back up the mountain : “Are you more afraid? Do you feel safe? Will you be more careful today? Are the pisteurs/resort doing enough?” Having been caught on the hop the responses given were short and to the point :- “What happened was, without doubt, a tragedy for all concerned. Skiing is a sport that is not without risks. Clearly following the advice of the pisteurs is to be recommended and skiing on runs that have been closed or, as in this case, have not yet been opened this season, should not be attempted. Our sympathies go out to the families of all who lost someone doing a sport they loved”.
There was a short “service” in the village square the following afternoon, including lighting candles and a minute’s silence. The square was packed and the silence properly observed.
There are risks in most of the things that we do. Indeed, looked at in economic terms, “profit” can be defined as the monies earned by taking a risk. In life, as in business, it is important that we manage the risks we take and that we avoid, where possible, those risks that might bring about our demise.