Last Saturday morning, a real nice gentleman swerved off the groomed portion of Upper Skid Road into some deeper untracked snow to avoid some kids. He was in an area where warm groundwater creates some holes in the snow, and he took a little tumble. He wasn’t hurt much and was real nice about it, and that was that.
Subsequently throughout the day, a few of us had conversations with several of our long-time veteran customers who saw the commotion right after the gentleman fell. The common theme was that some of our most experienced skiers aren’t responding to our hazard markings the way ya’d think they’d want to. So I’m writing to explain a little more of it here.
First off, when we poke a stick of bamboo in the ground, we’re trying to draw your attention to something. Like "lookee here!" It could be a hump or a dip, it could be a rock, stick or stump, it could be ice or water, possibly a drop-off or a step-up, or maybe something man-made. It’s kind of like we’re saying: "somethings different here and if you don’t have your eyes focused on the snow surface ahead of you, you’re going to want to do so now! There’s something to watch out for and possibly avoid!"
Sometimes we put bright yellow plastic "CAUTION" disks on the sticks. They indicate that there’s a little more to watch out for. In addition to focusing your eyes on what’s dead ahead, you should also be more generally cautious in a bit larger area, which can include slowing down, looking farther ahead, and if not stopping, at least being prepared to stop to avoid some kind of hazard.
So the area the gentleman traveled into looked like THIS as you approached from a ways above:
and we thought that was adequate marking to indicate this was an area in which to be cautious, what with the SLOW banner, about 10 sticks of bamboo, 4 of which had yellow CAUTION disks (kind of hard to see in the photo) spaced out around the bare area.
The area looked like THIS from just a little ways above (the 4th CAUTION is just out-of-frame to the right):
…and just so you understand what I’m talking about, THIS is what the area looked like from below:
…see, it’s not like it would be impossible to get through there. In fact, I’ve talked to plenty of younger Advanced & Expert skiers and snowboarders who don’t like it when we close-off little areas like this because they’re like mini natural terrain parks with little lifts and hits and gaps that are fun to jump over–especially when the snow’s all floofy.
But that day, we heard from so many of our long-time customers who indicated they don’t increase their cautiousness when they ski/ride past CAUTION signs ("Oh yeah, I NEVER slow down when I go by those signs") that I felt like I had to explain what WE are thinking when we place hazard markings. We’re trying to help you manage your safety and the risks inherent in skiing and boarding. PLEEEZE! Pay attention to the signs around you–both here and at other ski areas! We all try to apply similar logic to our markings, and we all want you to not get hurt!
Enjoy what’s fun and challenging for you, avoid what’s hazardous for you, and don’t harsh on my homies if you choose to not pay attention! It’d be a bummer if someone’s inattention forced a ski area to have to close-off every place a few little rough areas exist, right?
And remember, for safety, we recommed you stick to the groomed portions of trails. Thanks!