More about Jump-Building

Jon had this to say about my "Jumps and Jump Building" article:

With much respect for the Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol, there are two points (plus some) that seriously suggest that properly trained skiers should be able to build in-bound jumps:  1.) Most states have passed multiple bills that clearly state that nobody can "sign away her or his rights"…meaning that corporations cannot be held accountable for negligent actions by consumers.   2,) By forcing jumps into the less-safe backcountry regions the risk for danger and unwanted rescue by patrollers seems to be increased beyond practicality.

Thanks, Jon.  I’m glad to be able to have a discussion of this that’s NOT in-the-heat-of-the-moment when tempers run high, as is often the case when I’m at work and have to ask kids to take down jumps they’ve built.  It seems that humans just LOVE building jumps.  Ski and snowboard jumps, skateboard jumps, bike jumps, you name it!  Maybe it’s because we wish we could fly.  The other day I was watching a TV story about Native American Fancy Dancing from different parts of the country, and MAN there were a lot of feathers on some of the clothing.  No antlers, no hooves, no moulted snake skins or shedded hair.  But lots and lots of feathers.  It made me wonder about our special affinity for birds.  Maybe we subconsciously remember a time when we were angels or something.  Kind of makes ya’ think, huh?

Anyway, back to your comment…I don’t disagree with your point #2.  Like I said in my article, I would never "recommend" backcountry jump building because of the things (injuries!) that can go wrong.  But Crystal Mountain doesn’t have rules controlling what you do when you’re elsewhere.  And no one’s forcing anyone to jump anywhere!  You’re welcome to keep your feet on the ground, and there are all sorts of natural terrain features that you can jump off at Crystal as long as you do it in a safe manner.  We just don’t allow you to alter our ski area because a) we like it the way it is and b) we have no way of knowing if you know what you’re doing!

I hear your point #1 all the time, but attorneys I talk to seem to have a different opinion.  I want to keep an open mind, though.  If you can find me some Washington law indicating that "corporations cannot be held accountable for negligent actions by consumers" in situations like ski area jump building, I’ll be all over that!    But remember…we don’t prohibit jump-building because we want to avoid accountability; we prohibit jump-building because we don’t want to see our guests getting hurt!



8 thoughts on “More about Jump-Building

  1. Peter

    Point of information: A few years back, a 23 year-old skier was paralyzed after going off a jump at 35 miles per hour inside Snoqualmie’s terrain park. The skier was awarded $14 million in damages. To quote from the below article: “Jurors found that Salvini was the exception to the rule that skiers are responsible for injuries they suffer.” If there is one exception, there are surely more.


  2. Roger

    As I am up at Stevens for a free ride comp I felt the need to interject a comment on this topic. Stevens is littered with man/boy made jumps, many popping up when and where you least expect it, as in on the side of trails and tree runs. Most of these appear to have been bro shoveled, off camber or flat landings with limited run outs and poor sight lines. What I find interesting is the area has a pretty well maintained terrain park, which requires a safety orientation to ride. The patrolers I chatted with indicated the moron made jumps came from the crowd that was too cool
    to get safety schooled. Perhaps Darwin was correct.


  3. sarah

    I love Crystal Mtn, I have skied there for over 20 yesrs now. I’m just wondering why Crystal does not have a terrain park. Most of the other resorts I frequent all have terrain parks. My son and I are both skilled well rounded skiers and our favorite thing to do is ski the terrain parks. I will always love crystal, but it’s the conservative attitude that keeps me skiing at other local resorts more than Crystal Mtn. No offencen but Crystal Mtn needs to get with the times!


  4. Adam

    You guys have to get out of the mindframe of treating people like little children. I don’t want you protecting me from my lack of judgement. The whole reason I ski and snowboard is because it allows me to make my own decisions., decisions that could have serious consequenses. If it’s all because you “don’t want to see your guests getting hurt” why don’t we close down all the double blacks, all the runs with moguls on them. While we’re at it lets cut down all the trees.. cover all rocks with blue foam pads. Perhaps we should only allow cross country skiing. Sounds ridiculous right? because it is. This isn’t about fancy dancing with feathers and such and trying to fly. This is about freedom. freedom to feel alive. It puts one in the moment, forcing one to focus on risk assessment and having to block out the rest of the crazy things going on in the world. It’s purity. I often feel overly controled in life. I can’t get into an apartment without OKing an overly comprehensive back ground check and credit check. I have to pee into a cup for employers and again have my credit checked. Then deal with beuracracy that discourages inovation and rewards only full compliance with a controling minority. No matter how many degrees one has, getting ahead while maintaining basic integrity seems like a pipe dream. There’s big data compiling everything from what websites I visit to what food I buy at the grocery store.There are cops taking pictures of my car every time I drive by, recording my plate number. Insurance companies charging me more for not wanting to put a tracking device in my car. The right to privacy is pretty much dead. I’m starting to feel like the right to self determination is also dying. Peoples fear and desire for security is limiting our freedoms. I always feel like my potential is stiffled. After a day of stomping tricks in the terrain park I feel satisfied. Nothing else gives me this feeling. I have renewed confidence and energy from having been given the oppurtunity to be at my edge. You mention “kids building jumps” I’m 34 now and proud to say I was one of them. I remember playing cat and mouse with patrol in 88′ building jumps in out of the way areas, having them destroyed, them moving on. At the time skiiers were pretentious and snowboarding was refreshing, so I switched. By 94′ I remember seeing the first resort made park. After thousands of flips on a trampoline I did my first backflip on a snowboard in 95′. My first double in 98′. Tore my ACL at Big Sky in 99′ Suing them never crossed my mind. I got in 104 backflips in a day at Big Sky in 05′ and started landing double cork 10’s in 09′. By now I’m the old man in the park, but I’m still going at it. Still improving. You can’t do this stuff off of “natural features” Whenever I think of moving and calling a new mountain home I make sure it has at least basic terrain park features. Just a couple medium sized jumps is all I need. WInter Park has people watch a safety video before alowing them into the park. You could require participation in a training camp or certification process. There are ways to do it. I start on small jumps. If I’m landing stuff consistantly I move on to bigger ones. Why not kick people out of the park who arn’t landing on their feet. Force them back to the smaller features. Having spent 20+ years on snow, the park is really the only place I feel challenged.


    1. Adam,

      Thanks for your comment. I hear what you’re saying, and I particularly appreciate your point about personal responsibility. The world would be a much better place if everyone felt the same. I also agree with you about the power of self-determination and self-efficacy. That’s why we go to the mountains and rivers and wild places. We want to recapture a sense of control over our lives. We want to put ourselves in a situation that requires our attention, that forces us to be in the zone, and that asks for our very best selves. Nothing else offers this same kind of opportunity.

      Some of your points are germane to my job as a ski patroller, and some are meant for someone like my husband (the GM and owner of Crystal). I’ll answer the ones that relate to patrolling. We, as employees of Crystal, are responsible for anything we build. We build a chairlift, we pad the towers. Granted, you’re going to hurt yourself just as much by hitting a nearby tree as you would colliding with a tower at high speeds. But we didn’t build the trees. We are also responsible for warning skiers about hazards that exist on designated trails and runs. If we groom a slope right up to a cliff, and fail to warn skiers of what lies ahead, then we aren’t fulfilling our responsibility.

      Terrain Parks are a little different. A natural feature can be jumped and jibbed off without any special closure or signage. (This is especially true of a feature in areas like Northway or Southback, away from designated trails.) But inside the parks, the industry standard is to mark each feature, maintain them to a certain standard, etc. If we fail to do that, then we (and I mean Crystal employees here, not ski patroller per se) are not fulfilling our end of the bargain.

      Your comments about Big Sky are interesting. I’m very familiar with Big Sky, as it is also owned by my husband’s company. He was the GM there for 20 years. And yes, BS has some big features. It’s also a resort, and it has a different clientele and a very different mountain. There’s plenty of room there for a big park. Are you saying that we should have big jumps at Crystal? If so, you can just look at other ski areas within our company to realize our stance of parks and jumps. We support them. Crystal is different in that we don’t have as much room to build a big park. We also don’t have the same clientele. Usually parks are needed for resort families as a place for the kids/teens, or if the terrain is lacking. Let’s face it. The Summit of Snoqualmie (also a Boyne Resort, so I can say this) NEEDS a park. Crystal is special because it does have some great terrain that allows for some of that experience without having to build big jumps.

      About building your own jumps: go ahead and build jumps in the true backcountry. But, like the responsible person you are, take them down again. Just like you’d fill in your pit after doing a Rutschblock, so should you break down your jump. Now, having said that, no we don’t want skiers/riders to build jumps within our boundaries, fail to take them down. We don’t want an unwary skier/rider to hit it unexpectedly.

      Also, when it comes to policing the park–kicking out the kids that aren’t doing it right–I say, “yeah right.” Just think how that’s going to go over. Unfortunately people do get hurt in parks. What happens when someone becomes a paraplegic after hitting a jump in the park? Someone has to pay. Whether it’s society paying because the guy’s insurance wants to recoup their loss, or the ski area has to pay because the guy doesn’t have insurance, or the guy has to pay himself, it doesn’t matter. We just don’t want it to happen in the first place, because we are responsible for what we build. And more importantly, we don’t want anyone getting hurt. As a ski patroller, my job is to help the injured. I like to help, but I really hate to see people hurt themselves.

      There’s still ways to flex your freedom muscle at Crystal. If the park isn’t doing it for you, try Southback. Practice some new tricks on the airbag. Straightline Pinball. Start exploring the true backcountry. There’s ways to enjoy that flow experience without relying on manmade jumps. But there’s also ski areas that cater better to people who really enjoy jumps. So you’ve got that option as well.

      Hope that answers more questions than it poses.


      Kim Kircher


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