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February 9, 2008

The Meaning of Insurances in Skiing

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Written by: Marko Pyhajarvi

Some years ago I woke up in our 25-square meter flat in Chamonix. Because it was my responsibility to collect money for the rent, I was “priviliged” to sleep in one of our two beds. My friend slept in the other bed. Others, on that time 10 guys, were sleeping on floor, one after another.

I opened my eyes and noticed that others were still asleep. I looked out the window just to see the majestic Mont Blanc. The weather was perfect. I took a quick shower and made some breakfast for all of us. I knew most of them had hangover, so I wanted the help them regain. I needed my mates because I wanted to go ski the backcountry that day.

Guys woke up and realized it was a perfect weather outside. After the quick breakfast we packed our gear and hit the road, and soon we were in the first cabin to the top.

Oh boy, what a rush it was up there. In Chamonix you see lots of good skiers from all around the world. Chamonix is crowded and you must be in the first cabin if you are willing to ski fresh powder. We quickly jumped on our skis and snowboards and started riding. Somewhere in the middle of the mountain face I saw someone yelling and acting like being in panic. I skied to the guy and asked “what up, man?” He was in panic and told me that his friend was just caught by an avalanche. I think my heart just missed a couple of beats. I thought “oh no..“.

Me and my friend quickly spotted the small avalanche and figured out that there should be no high risk of second avalanche. The guy who asked for help had seen where his friend was buried. We took our avalanche beacons and quickly found the victim. After digging a minute or two we found him. He had less than one meter of snow above him. As he got up I saw he was in panic as well. I started to ask about his condition, but I was interrupted by the noise of a helicopter. Someone had called for help. Guy who had been under snow quickly took his skis which were next to him and started skiing down fast. I thought “what the heck?…” I wondered why he was in hurry.

The helicopter flew just above u,s and I saw them looking for the victim. We showed that there are no more people and no help is needed. After flying around a little they went away. We shook hands with the guy who asked for help and started skiing down. We did not want to spend anymore time in the risky avalanche area.

Later in Chamonix valley I realized that the guy probably had no insurance. I guess he wanted to disappear because without insurance he might get a pretty expensive ride back to the valley as the helicopter transportation can easily cost thousands of dollars. May be I am right, may be not. The point is that do not ski without insurance. It is a must in the mountains. If you get injured or caught by an avalanche, you might need helicopter transportation and treatment in the local hospital. If you don’t have insurance, you pay all the costs. Few weeks in the hospital plus a helicopter flight from glaciers can be pretty damn expensive. I’m talking about tens of thousands of dollars.

Did we ski the backcountry later that day? No, it was scary enough morning, so we went back to the valley and straight to the bar.



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About the Author

Marko Pyhajarvi
I am an old-school alpine skier, snowboarder and telemarker, and I love writing. Therefore I founded Homeboy. I (too) enjoy powder, mountaineering and backcountry skiing as well as photographing. Nowadays, as an old fart, I mostly ski with my kids and focus on financing their hobbies.



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