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Drunk British skiers to face fines
Wednesday, 10 March 2004





British skiers/boarders are today being warned that they face stiff penalties if caught on the slopes while under the influence of alcohol at European resorts next winter.

A surge in the number of accidents has forced officials at the Continent's most popular resorts to consider drastic action. Many blame drunken Britons for havoc on the pistes.

As a result, breathalysers and speed cameras are likely to be introduced in Italy, Austria and France. On-the-spot fines are being considered and local authorities could face harsh penalties if they fail to enforce safety measures.

In Italy, the head of the police Alpine training school said curbs on " excessive drinking on the slopes" were overdue. Alvaro de Palma, who trains Italy's Olympic skiing team and mountain rescue police, said: "It's become quite the fashion to bomb down the slopes in a drunken state".

He said 311 skiers and snowboarders had been fined in Trentino this season. Many offences related to drinking. "One shot of grappa or whisky after lunch is one thing, but if you have a lot of grappa you lose control," he said. "It is as dangerous as drink-driving."

Italian insurance company SAI said the numbers for accidents last year were "like the casualty figures from a small war", with 13,252 injuries (1,800 up on the previous year) and 17 deaths.

Regulations to make Italian slopes safer come into force next January and local authorities will be fined up to 140,000 for failing to enforce the rules.

Children under 14 must wear crash helmets or face a 100 fine, and off-piste skiers must carry a "personal beacon" in case they get lost. A "priority from the right" rule will be introduced.

In Austria, where at least 30 people have been killed this year, resorts are employing piste police.

French tourism workers say Britons are notorious. Serve Gau, a restaurant manager at Courchevel, said: "I would say the English put away twice the amount of the French or Spaniards."

By Ed Harris, Evening Standard

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