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Question for Western patrols

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
OK... a group of concerned BC skiers (or even SAR) comes to your patrol and expresses concern about a drastic increase in unknowledgeable and unequipped customers (often out of state tourists) leaving the access gates into avalanche prone areas and areas where many skiers could end up over their heads if they don't know where they are going (eg cliffout). These people endangering more than themselves (and potential rescuers) because they are often skiing above more knowledgable groups in avalanche terrain with no regard for safe travel protocol.

The out of permit area and the permit area are both USFS land.

The out of permit are is positioned such that patrol will be in a position to respond first to most accidents and SAR may often have to access via the ski area.

Customers who leave through the gate do not reenter the ski area except by returning to the base area.

The request is to deter these unequipped (and unknowledgable skiers) with signage or even equipment requirements.

How would your patrol respond?
post #2 of 14
I can't speak for Patrol Summit, but signs and gates are pretty standard. Customers leaving the ski area boundary most places pass by a sign with red backing and white letters (or similar) advising of unmarked terrain hazards and cliffs, need for special equipment, training and partners and that they could die. In spite of these standard warnings you will find teenage boys especially, in the side and back country terrain without any equipment or awareness of the potential hazards. The ski areas with gates often have classes in avy awareness or even full avy I courses and may offer guided trips into the backcountry with training and equipment supplied. If the patrol actively controls the gate access, there is an inference that opening the gate indicates relatively safe conditions which may expose the ski area to liability. As a result, many areas here do not prohibit access at any time, but post the warnings, and will usually post the current avalanche forecast near the lift terminal.

There is tremendous demand for back country access and unfortunately, screening qualified skiers and boarders would be a very manpower intensive effort. What would you do, post a patrolman at each gate and screen for beacons? It seems to me, the situation you describe could end up locking up the boundaries for all, in order to prevent the unprepared from being tempted.
post #3 of 14
Mount Baker has out of bounds skiing as you describe. Here's their policy and Washington state law:
http://www.mtbaker.us/policies/index.html

WASHINGTON STATE LAW: RCW 79A.45.030
(7) Any person skiing outside the confines of trails open for skiing or runs open for skiing within the ski area boundary shall be responsible for any injuries or losses resulting from his or her action. (I'm not sure if this applies outside the ski area boundary where the skiing is accessed through the ski area).
post #4 of 14
Here is a link that will take you directly to Baker's backcountry policy: http://www.mtbaker.us/policies/backcountry.html

The Baker patrol does indeed stand at the gates and check people to see if they have the required equipment and training from time to time. There is a huge use of backcountry there and there are usually a few deaths each year from skiers and snowshoers. The ski area really clamped down lately because of this. They're trying their hardest to save lives there.
post #5 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Posaune View Post
Here is a link that will take you directly to Baker's backcountry policy: http://www.mtbaker.us/policies/backcountry.html

The Baker patrol does indeed stand at the gates and check people to see if they have the required equipment and training from time to time. There is a huge use of backcountry there and there are usually a few deaths each year from skiers and snowshoers. The ski area really clamped down lately because of this. They're trying their hardest to save lives there.
I don't really like the idea of someone checking to see if I have the proper training or not, seems like a slippery slope. Out of bounds is out of bounds and some patroller that may or may not know more than me shouldn't have the final decision. I guess you could also argue that people get lost and die in the wilderness in the summer, do we want rangers checking gear and knowledge at the trailhead?
post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 
Said area doesn't have mcuh in the way of warning signs... just the low key and not very scary "unpatrolled unmaintained beyond this point" none of the nice big skull and crossbones "YOU NEED GEAR, A PARTNER, AND KNOWLEDGE. YOU CAN DIE. THIS IS YOUR DECISION" signs

i dont think that patrol should open or close the gate based on conditions... but people without beacons going out the gate is going to ruin my day and someone elses soon. i'd really love to see increased use of those little 457khz gates that only open with the close proximity of a transmitting beacon

patrol doesn't have to spend extra time, and people with no beacon can't leave without ducking a rope... and it makes sure beacon wearers have turned their beacons on
post #7 of 14
Summit,
Do you know who makes those gates? We are looking into ways to address the problem you mention and those sound like they might be a useful tool
post #8 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by climbinjunkie View Post
Summit,
Do you know who makes those gates? We are looking into ways to address the problem you mention and those sound like they might be a useful tool
not quite what you're talking about but I just found this with a quick google, and it's in the same vein...

http://www.snowsports.org/content/pdf/4963
post #9 of 14
sunshine in banff has them
post #10 of 14
I like the idea of the 457 gates. I know that won't have any real effect though as people will just duck the rope on either side of the gate if it won't open for them. That probably makes the gate a waste of money that can be better spent somewhere else. It's my belief that everyone has the right to be stupid. That comes with the obligation to take responsibilty for your actions. Many people don't like that second part. In bounds my greatest fear is being hit by another skier. Out of bounds my greatest fear is also the other skier who might send something down on me. I see the biggest unprepared gapers going out of bounds all the time. I really think that the ski porn industry needs to show some broken mangled bodies once in a while instead of glory shots of powder and top level skiers escaping from avalanches and sluffs.
post #11 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by zion zig zag View Post
I don't really like the idea of someone checking to see if I have the proper training or not, seems like a slippery slope. Out of bounds is out of bounds and some patroller that may or may not know more than me shouldn't have the final decision. I guess you could also argue that people get lost and die in the wilderness in the summer, do we want rangers checking gear and knowledge at the trailhead?
First off, there are some people who have more backcountry knowledge than Baker's pro patrol. Some. As in few. Those people, however, are largely the ones that applaud and encourage this policy. Idiots in the backcountry = more fatalities, more bad press, more restrictive policies.

Secondly, the patrol will discourage idiots, but does not stop them. All they can do is prohibit continued use of the lifts. That they most certainly WILL do. You have the final decision about traveling into the backcountry, but the mtn. does not have to accommodate that decision.

On a recent day the mtn staff was warning people not to go O/B - the avi danger was the highest ever recorded, and they publicly announced they WOULD NOT attempt any rescues. an inbounds avi occurred on a controlled slope, which required the patrol to respond en-masse. While they were busy with that, I watched 2 idiots duck a rope and ride in an area that had a 1000' avi prone slope above, and a 200' cliff below. No packs, which probably means no gear...and most certainly no knowledge. Education about the risks you are taking = good.

Mt. Baker has the least restrictive backcountry policy, coupled with the strongest education program in the country.
post #12 of 14
Still, I'd like to ski Baker.
post #13 of 14
If someone is leaving the resort, it isn't up to the resort patrol to have anything to do with them. And I doubt you will be seeing all that many becon activated gates in the US for folks leaving an area, bucause you have then just taken on some responsibility for the skier.

You will see them at places like Big Sky where they require you to have beacons and Ave gear to ske certain areas of the resort, but I don't see why a ski area needs to do any more than put up a ski area boundary sign.
post #14 of 14
I think I see a parallel here. Ski inbounds, some idiot hits you from behind and causes permanent injuries, gets up and skis or boards away, and you're left with your 'bad luck'.
Go out of bounds in a highly qualified group with all the right gear and training; and some jackass wandering around upslope triggers an avalanche that buries you.
As soon as there is a consensus that something effective MUST be done about these very similar problems, something will be done.

Until then, anyone with the cash for a lift ticket endangers everyone else.
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