Skiing holidays can be traumatic, not only from unplanned contact with rocks, trees, and fellow skiers, but from the cost of lift passes, accommodation, and a glass of beer at your favourite off-piste ale-house.

A ski resort, therefore, is the ideal venue for a trauma conference. One might call it immersion learning.

That’s obviously the idea behind the Hokkaido Trauma Conference, which will see 120 Australian anaesthetists gather in Japan in January 2008. Organised by the Department of Anaesthesia at The Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH), the sultans of sleep will meet in Rusutso, one of the world’s premier powder-skiing destinations. According to the conference literature:

The resort itself is a modern day mecca consisting of every possible facility to keep everyone entertained … The peak of Mt Izola offers the best terrain with long and challenging runs combined with panoramic scenery. Plenty of activities other than skiing can be enjoyed such as dog sledding, snowmobiling, snow rafting and tubing.

And it will be a progressive conference. The soporific lectures and laborious technology demos have been replaced by what you might call “unsupervised fieldwork”. At least, that’s what the schedule suggests.

The morning session runs from 7.15am to 9.15am, and the gruelling afternoon session from 4.30pm to 6.30pm. The rest of the day, presumably, has been left open for self-directed learning in a range of environments, which, conveniently, cater for all technical competencies:

The lift network is spread over 3 peaks offering a wide variety of terrain catering to all levels of skiers and snowboarders. There is 42 kms of slopes with 30% advanced, 40% intermediate and 30% beginner.

That’s only the good news. The really good news for attendees is that their flight and accommodation expenses could be covered by the Australian taxpayer, courtesy of some neat tax deductions.

Meanwhile, is it possible that the Royal Melbourne Hospital, which last year was fighting back from a $37.3 million deficit, will pitch in for some of the conference expenses?

Were such quotidian concerns factored into the choice of a suitably traumatic luxury ski resort? Were other traumatic environments, such as nearby highways or prison cells in Indigenous communities, considered when looking for a venue? And has the RMH seen a spike in ski-related trauma injuries, particularly those flown in from Japanese ski resorts?

Crikey contacted conference organiser Dr Daryl Williams, Director of Anaesthesia and Pain Management at RMH, for answers to these questions, but he was unavailable for comment prior to publication.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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