The Italian Job

This year’s FIPS was held in Passo de Tonale in the dolomites, Italy and if I recall correctly there were 16 countries that attended. The days were pretty much split in to lectures and on the slope workshops with different countries presenting subjects surrounding the 4 main areas that FIPS have decided to concentrate on ie Medical, Avalanche, Law and I.T.


The Swedish Doctor Poul Kongstad presented a few case studies that they had dealt with the previous season which proved to be popular and also gave a great session on head injuries and Intracranial Pressure (I.C.P.) The future medical sessions are going to be run this way and any interesting cases that we come across over the next couple of seasons can be sent to myself or Harriet to hopefully present in 2 years’ time. The pair of us are now part of the medical group following John Holmes decision to chase polar bears with Bill smith (I believe they now share the same yellow wellies!) and a thank you to John for the work he has put in to the group so far. The subject for the medical for the next 2 years is going to be based on soft tissue injuries, something that Harriet and I put forward as it seems to be the bread n butter of patrollers worldwide, as well as this we are conducting a survey on analgesia throughout the member countries of FIPS.

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Ed Gassman – the American judge gave his usual type of talk which was really informative and funny, it was around the latest fad – Drones. Along with the legislative side, there was also discussion surrounding the use of drones in regard to avalanche control and possibly rescue. The drones are now being developed with the capability of attaching an explosive stick which can be flown out and timed to drop over the slope to be released. So far it’s in the early stages but advancing fast – the one drawback being the drone wishing to return to base when it presents any technical problems. Thoughts of a certain dog bringing back a thrown stick of dynamite spring to mind!! Ed also spoke about the advances of drones to use thermal imaging to locate buried avalanche casualties – yet again early stages as the drone is too small to carry the equipment for a search. He did imply that it wouldn’t be too long before financially the military capabilities would be available commercially to be able to fly a drone in and locate a casualty buried (as long as the body temp is above the ambient temp).

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The Akja racing this year was won again by the Italians but we finished a glorious 3rd after being reinstated following a scandalous protest from the Italian team who accused us of cheating! Not my problem if they have to avoid my driving skills, especially as the course had far too many poles which just got in the way! We also had a winner takes all race with the septics which we won – and without any cheating whatsoever, just don’t mention Trump!!

The Italians also set up a rigging system and showed us a film they had made on the rescue of a skier stuck on an icy sledge – as only the Italians can. It had drama, a maiden being rescued and lots of sunglasses being worn by good looking Italian guys – or so the ladies told me. The system was pretty much the same as we use and have been doing so since Hamish Mcinnes was in shorts but with style and an Italian leather bag to put it in.

The evenings were mainly spent in the local bar making friends and the usual daftness that alcohol brings, especially trying to break the language barrier and eventually just continually shouting slainte, prost,saluti,noroc,etc when it breaks down.

The Italians were fantastic hosts and being made to eat their smoked hams, cheeses and drink prosecco on the slopes with the local Cabinieri whilst ensuring the good name of BASP was upheld wasn’t an easy task but someone had to do it.


So what did I take out of it – New friends were made and hopefully a few trips in the future (LMRT/BASP team going to Romania for a training session on rescue techniques, Americans visiting in August to be taught how to pronounce Edinburgh and aluminium, Sochi in 2 years if not before) New knowledge was gained (Don’t compete with the Serbians – they are machines and the system to join ski patrol/rescue would make Bear Grylls cry (again)). On top of all this there were serious learning points to take home for all countries, and once again we showed that we can be up there with the best – albeit without sunglasses and a tan.

I would recommend the next one which is in Russia as after meeting old and new friends the only difference between the jobs worldwide is the language as we all do the same job for pretty much the same reasons and the same pay, but at the end of the day it really does beat having a real job!

Thanks to the Glenshee mafia Kate, Gerry, John, Bill, Harriet and Nikki for putting up with me – saluti

Article Written by Mark Fair, Ski Patrol, Nevis Range.

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