Injuries among winter sports enthusiasts have increased significantly. ‘People simply don’t see the danger’

The number of winter sports enthusiasts who return battered is growing. The ANWB received more than 10 percent more requests for help from the emergency center. Experts are concerned about the number of Dutch people who rush down the slopes uncontrollably, with all the consequences that entails.

After a serious skiing accident, Austrian lawyer Stephan Wijnkamp is often on the slopes in winter to reconstruct the case. “You’ll be there for a few hours. And what you see passing by, how people ski… It gets crazier every year.”

Wijnkamp follows the news closely and believes he is seeing more and more serious accidents. “The severity is above average. That was already last year and that development continues. People lack technology, think they are safe because of all kinds of protection and then make trouble,” says the lawyer from Imst in Tyrol, who specializes in ski and mountain sports law.

He doesn’t call it overconfidence. “That requires you to see the danger. That is not true. Everyone understands that if you fall off your bike at 40 kilometers per hour, there is a chance that you will not survive, but on the slopes, winter sports enthusiasts with poor technique race around uncontrollably at 70 kilometers per hour.”

More than 11,000 requests for help at ANWB Emergency Center

After last week, the ANWB Emergency Center took stock of the winter sports period between December and March. 11,000 requests for help were received, most of them car breakdowns. More than 1,100 people were injured, an increase of 10 percent. The number of people who were so badly injured that they had to be transported to the Netherlands by ambulance or recumbent taxi increased from 155 to 170.

The injuries vary. “There are also a lot of bruises and injuries,” says spokeswoman Sanne Over. But also knee, leg and arm injuries. That things can also go terribly wrong is evident from the fact that at least three Dutch people have already died on the slopes this winter.

‘Winter sports enthusiasts seriously overestimate their own abilities’

Thiebout VandenBergh of the Austrian Tourist Board is also concerned. He also observes on the slopes how people greatly overestimate their own abilities, especially in the difficult conditions that the winter sports areas faced due to the changeable weather in the Alps. Particularly on hard, fast slopes where, for example, some rain froze during the night, he notices that winter sports enthusiasts do not adapt in terms of speed and skiing style.

“They sometimes simply do not see the danger and then often hurtle down uncontrollably beyond their control, causing nasty accidents to occur. Always ski under control and realize that the police take a skiing accident very seriously.”

‘Negligence due to slippery track’

Skiers also regularly collide with objects at high speed. In several accidents, Dutch people crashed into trees or lift poles. Wijnkamp also looks at the track managers with suspicion. It is not without reason that he is representing the interests of the partner of the Dutch woman who died last year on a slope that was too steep and too icy in the Hintertux ski area. She slid into an abyss with a friend. The lift operator, responsible for slope management, together with his director and two employees, are being prosecuted for gross negligence.

“These people skied in a controlled manner and with sufficient technique,” ​​Wijnkamp emphasizes. “But this track had become an ice sheet and should have been closed. Too little attention has been paid to safety there. In Hintertux it was the route to the valley. If you close it, it will also hurt economically.”

The Dutch Ski Association counters that the majority of skiers do prepare well and stay within their limits. “You obviously see incidents in extremely busy areas. You have to be able to stay within yourself, but at the end of the day in all the hustle and bustle, an accident can happen just around the corner. And things obviously go wrong more quickly in difficult circumstances.”