Mountain safety/Surviving the slopes
Every skier should follow the International (FIS) code of conduct for skiers. Always be properly dressed (jeans are not OK), wear layers, gloves, sunglasses and hat. And don't forget the sun protection.
Mountain safety/Surviving the slopes
Judging by the way most Bulgarians drive, one may be forgiven for being a little apprehensive before taking to the slopes for the first time in this country. Let me assure you that while it is true to say that the total disregard for rules is similar to that experienced on the roads, skiing in Bulgaria is nowhere near as hazardous or nerve-racking as the driving.
My years of working and skiing in Borovets have shown me that it is not necessarily the locals, most of whom are good skiers even if a little reckless, that cause the biggest danger on the slopes. The hazard factors are many fold and start off with poor preparation of the slopes. Insufficient snow coverage, badly marked (if at all) pistes and large rocks can even test the most experienced skier.To this day I refuse to wear my own skis for fear of gauging them beyond repair.
Every skier should follow the International (FIS) code of conduct for skiers, but it seems that very few people seem aware of these rules. Try skiing in America - they have patrols, who reinforce the rules and even throw you off a run if they think you are not good enough to be skiing on it.
Elsewhere in Europe they rely on the understanding that the rules are for the safety of all skiers, including oneself. Some of the simplest rules like "not skiing alone" or "not skiing off-piste" are disregarded time and again putting the offenders own life in danger. All skiers are bound to ski within their ability with due regard for those downhill from them and should in no way endanger them or restrict their maneuvers. Leopards don't change their spots, even if they have changed their equipment.
You can be sure that the same guys that cut you up on the Tzarigradsko shosse will cut you up on the slopes of Borovets; but you may stand a better chance at accidentally whacking them with your ski poles. Likewise don't expect any courtesy in the lift queue. Well actually it's only a queue for the British - all other nationals push and barge their way to the front. A few sharp words can usually bring some of the 'bargers' into line but it's best not to get too annoyed about it, you'll get to the lift eventually. If you can't beat them, join them!
In my opinion one of the biggest hazards on the slopes are people skiing beyond their abilities. Why so many people feel brave (and stupid) enough to tackle a black run after just a few days of lessons is beyond me?
Having said that, the lads that I encountered in serious trouble on one occasion, may not have actually realised they were on a black run because of the lack of signs. However far too many youngsters believe that once you've mastered the snow-plough turn they are ready for everything!
Both ski guides and ski instructors are plentiful in Bulgaria and not very expensive at that. It is always advisable to have them show you the best runs for your ability on the first day, and a few tips on style and technique are extremely helpful. During my time as a rep in Borovets, I heard over and over comments like "I had a week of lessons last year - I don't need a ski instructor."
I've been skiing since the age of six and I still feel nervous and unsure when I first take to the slopes. It always feels reassuring to have an instructor with me. Maybe that's why I married one!
My final advice is: Always be properly dressed (jeans are not OK), wear layers, gloves, sunglasses and hat. And don't forget the sun protection.
In my two seasons in Borovets, I had more casualties from sunburn and snow blindness that I had skiing accidents, and nearly all deaths in the resort were related to excessive alcohol consumption and not reckless skiing. Here's to a safe winter season.
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