Rega – Swiss Air-Rescue

Accidents on the ski slopes

What can you do if you witness an accident on the ski slopes? Whom should you call and what is the best way to help?

So be honest: which of you have never voiced the thought – even only very quietly – that nowadays a rescue helicopter seems to be called out to just about every incident on the ski piste, no matter how small? Probably – and this is nothing to be ashamed of – most of us at some time or other. But is Rega really taking to the air more often to deal with winter sports injuries? Whom should I call if I witness an accident on the slopes, and how can I provide first aid most effectively?

The figures fluctuate greatly

So let us take these questions one at a time. On average, 87,000 of the approximately 2.5 million Swiss people who ski or snowboard suffer an accident on Switzerland’s mountain slopes every year, according to an analysis by the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention (bfu). Rega’s rescue helicopters are only needed in around one to two percent of cases. Rega comes to the aid of injured winter sports enthusiasts between 1,300 and 1,700 times per year. The figures fluctuate from year to year, depending on the weather and snow conditions. Moreover, Rega’s statistics show no evidence of any increase in helicopter missions in winter sports areas either. On the contrary: over the last 15 years, the percentage of missions carried out in response to winter sports accidents in relation to the total amount has actually dropped slightly.

React correctly in an emergency

But that is enough of figures and statistics. If, despite all safety precautions, an accident does occur, try to stay calm. First of all, secure the accident site so that the skiers and snowboarders behind do not collide with the injured person. Administer first aid and call out the rescue services.

Piste rescue service or Rega

By rescue sled down into the valley or, after a serious accident, directly to hospital with Rega? This decision is generally made by the piste rescue team at the ski resort. While in principle anyone can alert Rega directly at any time, for most accidents on the slopes it makes sense to ask the local piste rescue service for help. You can find the number to call on your ski pass. Piste patrollers are trained to deal with medical emergencies, know the area inside out, and are also experienced in working together with the Rega crews – so they are well aware of what the rescue helicopter can and cannot do.

When every minute counts, call 1414

Calling Rega direct on its emergency number 1414 is always recommended if urgent assistance is required and every minute counts – for instance, after avalanche accidents or in the case of potentially life-threatening accidents or conditions (suspected heart attack or stroke).

The professionals know what to do

But do not worry: there is no such thing as calling out the “wrong” rescue service. Whether you alert the piste patrollers or Rega – either way, in an emergency, highly trained professionals are there to help you and are well able to assess which means of rescue needs to be dispatched to the accident scene. We wish you an accident-free winter sports season, plenty of sunshine, and great snow conditions.

How you can help

1. Secure the accident site

Mark the area by placing crossed skis upright in the snow at a sufficient distance from the casualty and post someone to warn other skiers and snowboarders.

2. Administer first aid

Establish the general condition of the casualty, position them correctly, attend to any wounds and protect them against the cold.

3. Alert the local piste rescue service or Rega

Report the place and time of the accident, the number of casualties and the nature of the injuries. In the event of life-threatening situations and avalanches, call out Rega direct via emergency number 1414.

After a collision 

Establish the facts, note the names and addresses of those involved and of any witnesses, as well as the place, time and circumstances of the collision, and take account of the terrain, snow and visibility conditions.

Further information:

PDF: Illustration "Accidents on the piste"