Code of Conduct for Off Piste Skiing and Snowboarding 

This code of conduct for off piste has been prepared by the Ski Club of Great Britain to complement the FIS Rules for Conduct on the piste. The introduction to the FIS Rules states that “Skiing and Snowboarding like all sports entail risks. The FIS Rules must be considered an ideal pattern of conduct for a responsible and careful skier or snowboarder and their purpose is to avoid accidents on the piste. The FIS Rules apply to all skiers and snowboarders. The skier or snowboarder is obliged to be familiar with and to respect them. If he or she fails to do so, his or her behaviour could expose him or her to civil and criminal liability in the event of an accident.”

Many of the FIS Rules for Conduct remain entirely relevant for off piste. In addition to FIS Rules for Conduct the following rules should be considered:

  • Never ride off piste alone
  • Always wear a transceiver in full working order and in send mode. In addition, carry shovel and probe.
  • Consider using other safety equipment such as an airbag for example
  • Seek out the current avalanche hazard forecast and snow pack analysis
  • Gain an understanding of the snowpack and how snow changes on the ground
  • Choose lines and routes that avoid avalanche prone slopes
  • Ride slopes one at a time if you are concerned about stability
  • Respect other slope users, particularly those below you
  • Respect concerns of others in the group or those less able and experienced. If anyone wishes to leave the group facilitate it in the safest and most considerate possible way
  • You are responsible for your own safety, the safety of others in the group, the safety of other mountain users and for your own equipment. It is normal to have insurance that covers rescue away from the piste which may require a helicopter evacuation
  • Never be afraid to back off
  • Exercise great caution when avalanche hazard level is higher than 3 and limit activities accordingly

Note: when skiing in a non-professionally led group there is a suggestion that the most experienced person in the group may be held responsible in the event of an accident that causes injury or death to others in the group or persons entirely un-associated with the group. This may or may not be the case and cannot be substantiated by fact. There are examples in France of individuals being prosecuted, for example when two boarders triggered an avalanche on to a group of skiers which resulted in one death of the group below but there are also examples of unsuccessful prosecutions in similar cases. In countries other than France responsibilities of individuals may similarly vary so it is not possible to make clear cut or blanket statements about negligence in cases of injury or death. It is certainly the case however that if a group of skiers and or boarders has any skier or boarder who is a professional mountain guide or ski instructor they are likely to be considered responsible for any adverse situation created by the group.

What is perfectly clear is that all mountain users have a responsibility to themselves and other mountain users. Everyone who goes into the mountains should consider the risks thereby entailed and make a judgement as to whether they are prepared to accept them.