Bystander video of Schumacher ski crash puts lie to “off-piste” connerie

When Formula One racer Michael Schumacher broke his crown on a French ski slope last week, Meribel resort spokesmen went into damage control mode by declaring the speed champion was skiing “off-piste”. That’s Anglo-French for off-the-trail or out-of-bounds. Initial reports mentioned the specific slope on which Schumacher crashed, but subsequent press releases amended the account to reassure tourists that this downhill interruptus occurred outside of the permitted area. Isn’t that always the official line of resort operators and their insurers –ski accidents result when patrons stray where they’re not allowed? This theme puzzles regular skiers who know the back country is usually thoroughly demarcated and sealed. It was no surprise then when a bystander video emerged which showed Schumacher’s accident happening exactly where originally stated, on the Grand Couloir (trans: Big Corridor) between Mauduit and La Biche. Thus we discover the disingenuous definition of “off-piste”. It means the piste’s edge! Be it trees, rocks or cliff, it’s the most probable thing with which a skier can collide: the border of a groomed slope. Saying Schumacher crashed off-piste is like saying his Ferrarir didn’t crash at a racetrack, but rather against the track’s wall; or like saying a person didn’t fall from a building but rather died on the sidewalk. Now we know how so many ski accident victims got past barriers, substantial enough to deter most reckless impulses: They didn’t, they crashed into them.

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