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Hazards marking - are Caution Discs really necessary?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
How many hi-viz orange discs does it take to be effective?

Obviously too few doesn’t work but i argue fewer is more effective than too many (over-signage = skier complacency) which has the opposite of the intended effect, is an extra cost and a visual blight. I base this on the fact that skiers/riders understand that a bare bamboo (visible from above) means obstacle/caution, be careful as you go by or around it. Discs are indicated when something more needs to be conveyed, e.g. thin cover, trails merge, slow or the like. In other words “caution” discs are redundant unless the bamboo is not visible without it (not normally the case). Many patrols seem to think, most, if not all, bamboo need a caution disc (even obvious dirt patches for instance). This is the mindset being taught at some areas theses days and it should be seriously re-evaluated. Some (usually newer) patrollers think they’re being helpful or important when they radio in the need for caution discs on obstacles that are either obvious or require a stick or two. This is a losing battle that detracts from real dangers needing guests attention. Over saturation of orange signage naturally leads to guests not paying attention to any of it. I think if patrols stuck to a policy of using two bamboo for each disc, not only would it keep the discs facing the right way so they can be readable (& professional looking) but it would help us think twice whether the boo really needs a disc or could stand alone.

I would love hear patrol philosophies on this from some of the older, well established ski patrols. Thanks

my background includes
1) 34 years professional patroller
2) 25 years surveying and boundary marking
3) 7 years in highway operations, engineering & design
post #2 of 15
As an older skier who skis at Whitefish, where fog is a frequent problem, I need the disc to even see the stick. A stick by itself would be more likely to kill me. I've almost clothes-lined myself on sticks joined by ropes when they were erected in odd places. Fortunately that doesn't happen often. Plus I know people who ski without their glasses because they think their vision isn't all that bad.. Until it comes to some scrawny stick right in the middle of a trail. Depending on what is behind the stick visually (forest, for instance) that stick could easily be invisible. If you like, use one of your traffic cones.
post #3 of 15

I don't know what a disc is. At my home mountain we have fog poles that are placed down the centre of some wide open above the treeline runs. Noobs only ask what the poles are for on sunny days as in the fog their usefulness becomes self evident.

post #4 of 15
Pretty sure he's talking about the fog ball/lollipop thing on the stick here:

IMG_0148a.jpg

But, even on a sunny day, how visible is this rope without the discs?

IMG_0960a.JPG
post #5 of 15

To the OP. Different areas have different signage requirements. Even areas that are next door. Each State has a unique Inherent Risk Statute so that also drives the bus.

 

 

 

That may not work in all situations but it did get rid of a lot of confusing markings and left more time for the important stuff. Skiing.


Edited by Studebaker Hawk - 3/22/16 at 6:59am
post #6 of 15

I think that the current trends in marking are:

A-Unhelpful.

B-Based on huge misunderstanding of liability.

 

Stand next to a bit of marking that you feel is unhelpful, and watch how the public reacts- in my experience the public doesn't get it.

Places that use a lot of marking are often inconsistent.  Some patrollers mark open and obvious hazards, some don't.  If the last three hazards I skied past were marked, and the one that caught me up was not, is the resort really that well protected?

 

  • Nothing visible from above should EVER be marked.
  • Sign usage should be minimal, intuitive and consistent.  A change in snow surface not obvious to a skier skiing within his ability level on a given trail might benefit from being marked.  More advanced trails require more advanced terrain management from the skier.
  • Double black and natural runs should never be marked in any way unless the hazard is manmade.

 

 

4 years paid, 11 years volly, and a bunch of time managing risk/hazards in the outdoor industry- guiding, instruction, etc.

post #7 of 15

From a casual observer...

 

You can't fix stupid.  But the stupid can sue for damages

 

(despite the whole part of acknowledging by use of the lift ticket/pass, they accept that skiing is a high risk activity)

post #8 of 15

At Alpine Meadows it seems that patrol marks hazards that are manmade--like an old lift tower base, or in the middle of a groomed run, in other words, where the lawyers THINK the resort might have liability.

post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by oldgoat View Post

At Alpine Meadows it seems that patrol marks hazards that are manmade--like an old lift tower base, or in the middle of a groomed run, in other words, where the lawyers THINK the resort might have liability.

So, they don't so much CARE to make sure you don't get hurt as are protecting themselves. Don't they mark bad grooming anomalies, or a bad rock poking through on a groomer not easily visible until it's too late? I'm not sure what causes the odd root to get marked here. Maybe someone already was taken away on a sled? I just know that occasionally they do.
post #10 of 15

We call them "fog discs",  they go on ropes or on "spin poles", which are actually anti-spin poles arranged to keep any warning text visible to traffic that is up hill.

 

Yes,  they are needed.  And very useful.

 

Mark hazards consistently!

post #11 of 15

Having skied in fog and having almost skied into ropes, I much appreciate the fog discs.

post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by oldgoat View Post

At Alpine Meadows it seems that patrol marks hazards that are manmade--like an old lift tower base, or in the middle of a groomed run, in other words, where the lawyers THINK the resort might have liability.

So, they don't so much CARE to make sure you don't get hurt as are protecting themselves. Don't they mark bad grooming anomalies, or a bad rock poking through on a groomer not easily visible until it's too late? I'm not sure what causes the odd root to get marked here. Maybe someone already was taken away on a sled? I just know that occasionally they do.

My post wasn't clear--I meant a rock or log in the middle of a groomer, like you said, or the last few years a stream with running water (those should be marked with red or yellow posts depending on whether or not they are lateral hazards :)). Grooming anomalies are usually smoothed over by patrol. One cool thing they did one time on a bad viz day--a patroller scattered pine twigs on a groomer. 

post #13 of 15

Interesting question as I'm still trying to find my way as a paid patroller in the midwest. I've kind of gone with the less-is-more mantra so far, trying to keep things consistent.  I also mark based on ability level of the run.  If we don't have a high-viz disc on the bamboo, the hazard usually gets 2 poles crossed.  Agree that over-marking leads to complacent skiers.

 

I believe consistency is key as it's been an issue for us as a patrol.

post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

So, they don't so much CARE to make sure you don't get hurt as are protecting themselves. Don't they mark bad grooming anomalies, or a bad rock poking through on a groomer not easily visible until it's too late? I'm not sure what causes the odd root to get marked here. Maybe someone already was taken away on a sled? I just know that occasionally they do.

At our hill the hill management, and ops team deal with most marking for this very reason. If patrollers see something that is likely to cause an accident, we let management know and they decide if it needs to be marked. They're the ones getting sued if something happens...

Thankfully, and despite the ever present threat of litigation, our hill takes a fairly minimalistic approach to marking hazards.
- If it isn't obvious from above, it's marked.
- If it's obvious and man made, it's moved out of traffic areas or padded if it's immovable.
- if it's obvious and natural, it's your fault if you choose to run into it.

With that last one, there are always exceptions. We keep a fairly close eye on these "obvious natural hazards" and will mark if we are seeing a higher than expected incident rate related to them. But, like another person mentioned, we will also see if it can be eliminated through trail work during the off season.

We have one patroller who seems to think everything needs to be marked. Every shift I'm on with him, he makes at least two or three calls to management to recommend marking things. I don't know that I've ever heard another patroller make a call to get things marked. It's so bad that he'll call other patrollers to get help erecting fences that management has not asked for and we all conveniently find ourselves busy doing other things, like skiing where he can't see us...
post #15 of 15

As a skier that has skied PNW with low intermediate wife and little kids, I'm really happy fog disks exist.

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