I remember one such tragic incident in Meribel in the early 1990s, involving an ESF instructor relaxing with his music after finishing an afternoon of teaching. The dameuse was left in position, surrounded by police tape, for several months until the judicial enquiry was completed. It also became a kind of monument in the resort to a new and potentially dangerous phenomenon.
|No longer seen....|
Various new technologies have been introduced to make the machines safer and more eco-friendly. About 10 years ago Les Arcs proudly announced that it was from then on only going to use biodegradable fuel and engine oils. GPS navigation systems started to be employed to guide the machines more accurately (they often work in pairs or even trios), so they don't wastefully go over the same bit more than once. With night usage it was important that noise was reduced, and the many powerful spot lights needed could be controlled and focussed away from nearby chalet bedroom windows. The cabs are luxurious, with sprung seats, music and communication systems, computer controlled heating and air-conditioning, 360 degree view windows and TV monitors for the rear view.
|Karen, Jessica, Tommy and Alice getting ready for work|
However, although things are safer than ever on the pistes de ski, accidents to still happen although rarely. In March 2012 two children collided with a dameuse in Les Gets and were seriously injured (but survived OK). They were tobogganing on a piste after closing time, on the first day of their holiday. The driver was arrested and found to be slightly below the car driving alcohol limit, but sadly it was the parents who were to blame for allowing their children to play out-of-hours on the piste. I've noticed at Les Arcs more visible warning signs have been erected at the foot of the pistes warning people of this danger, but don't ever allow your children to do that, parents!
You can have a go at driving a dameuse yourself at La Plagne - €60 euros for half an hour or 10 minutes for €20 euros for children. Click here for details, but best to leave your Walkman at home....