EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › General Skiing Discussion › Who decides what trails are open? Mgmt, or ski patrol?
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Who decides what trails are open? Mgmt, or ski patrol?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
The last few weeks at my local hill - Greek Peak in upstate NY, have seen rapidly deteriorating base and conditions. As the end of the season has neared, I've been surprised at what has remained open to skiers. Not that it's impossible to ski the open trails, but there seems to be a big divergence with the practices of past years where it seemed like trails would be closed way before they were unsafe to ski. This year it seems like just the opposite -- trails are being kept open with almost no base, sheets of icy bumps (not crust, but groundwater seeping up from underneath icy), lots of exposed dirt and rocks, etc.

So the only obvious difference between this year and last year is the $35 million dollar indoor water park and lodge/restaurant that the resort put in across the road. It seems, imo, that ski patrol must be getting pressured from the resort to keep more trails open so they can continue to attract visitors. 

Yesterday for example, they reported 22 trails and 4 lifts open. Well for locals who know, one of those lifts was Chair 5, on the backside of the mountain. There was no point in skiing off this trail -- the only run down had you crossing some straw/hay at the beginning where the trail was bare, then skiing a few places where the "snow" narrowed to about 5 feet, and even that was dirty slush. At the bottom the lifties had to create a snow bridge over some mud to enable people to gingerly shuffle up to the lift line.

The front side of the mountain was better, but even then there were a couple trails that in the past would've been closed based on yesterday's conditions.

I'll be surprised if they stay open after today. Their snow report of 22-42" of base is a joke, since large patches of mud/dirt abound everywhere, and you can see through much of the base to the grass/dirt beneath in a lot of areas as well. I'd say their avg base is more realistically 0 to 12 inches.

So for ski patrol types -- do you guys get pressure from resort mgmt to keep trails open at times when you think they shoudl be closed?

The skiing yesterday was ok on about half the open trails. On the other half it was marginal (heavy slush) to downright stupid (walking over straw/hay to get to snow). There were lots of patrollers about, but they were just free skiing in a group, so I didn't bother chatting any of them up.

Sadly my local season is done. We had some decent local skiing this year, and the kids made great progress. We also had a fantastic trip to Utah -- which reminds me I need to move to someplace with better/more consistent snow.  On a bright note, I started bike commuting this past week, and am taking the family out for a ride later today!
post #2 of 17
ski patrol are employees of management

so just as your boss tell you what to do, their boss tells them what to do
post #3 of 17
Sure management tries to push for the most terrain open as possible. However, it is the ski patrol department that is ultimately responsible for the safety of everyone on the mountain, and if they think an area/trail is dangerous for whatever reason, they will close it.

Same as lifts opening, ski patrol has the final say (eg. waiting for avalanche control) - but before the lift can open, they also need clearance from 'lift maintenance' saying the lift is safe to operate.

No manager can force either lift maintenance or ski patrol to open something.
post #4 of 17
I'm OK with keeping sketchy expert trails open with adequate warning signage.  Intermediate and beginner trails need to be totally 100% skiable and groomed.
post #5 of 17
Theys only concern is your safety!
post #6 of 17
 "ski patrol are employees of management
so just as your boss tell you what to do, their boss tells them what to do"

I don't know what happens at Greek Peak.
But at Alyeska, where prematurely opening the mountain before it's stable can kill somebody, I do believe patrol calls the shots.
post #7 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by crgildart View Post

I'm OK with keeping sketchy expert trails open with adequate warning signage.  Intermediate and beginner trails need to be totally 100% skiable and groomed.


Just put up an "expert only" sign to override the original trail classification. 
post #8 of 17
It's both.

If the ski patrol director goes on the record as saying something isn't safe for skiers, ski area management would be insane to open it anyway.

Of course, that particular ski patrol director might not have a job the following season.

Something exactly like this question happened here at Jackson Hole yesterday. 

Rendezvous Bowl at the top of the tram was about as horrible as anyone remembers it.  It was frozen (SOLID) moguls the size of tank barricades.  It was a very cold and windy day and the sun wasn't softening it at all.  People were ricocheting off the bumps, losing skis, sliding down out of control, etc.

The ski patrol made the decision that it was too dangerous for a high enough percentage of skiers/boarders that they shouldn't have people going down it.  They closed the tram for SAFETY because the only way down from the top is Rendezvous Bowl.  That's something I have never seen in 34 winters here, but it was the right decision.

They opened it again today because the sun was warming things today.
post #9 of 17
 I dont know who makes the call but I would rather a resort keep sketchy coverage trails open and let it be up to people to decide if they want to ski them or not.
post #10 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by BushwackerinPA View Post

 I dont know who makes the call but I would rather a resort keep sketchy coverage trails open and let it be up to people to decide if they want to ski them or not.

Aren't you the same person who castigated those snowmobilers for holding an event in obviously dangerous avalanche conditions? 

Why wouldn't you feel that those people should have been able to decide if they wanted to ride or not?
post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Peters View Post




Aren't you the same person who castigated those snowmobilers for holding an event in obviously dangerous avalanche conditions? 

Why wouldn't you feel that those people should have been able to decide if they wanted to ride or not?
 

they did decide and paid the price. I would never take away their right to ride in dangerous condtions nor would I ever not post how dumb it was for them to ride then.

Just because a dangerous option is there doesnt mean someone is holding a gun to your head and telling you have to take it. The dangerous option should still be there though.
post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BushwackerinPA View Post

 I dont know who makes the call but I would rather a resort keep sketchy coverage trails open and let it be up to people to decide if they want to ski them or not.

BWPA - I don't disagree for the most part. I think the clear change in standards from previous years (I've had a season pass for at least the last 8  years) is notable though. They clearly are going to be in bad shape as they try to hawk their season passes while closing weeks earlier than normal, and service their massive debt for their white elephant of a waterpark.
post #13 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by BushwackerinPA View Post




they did decide and paid the price. I would never take away their right to ride in dangerous condtions nor would I ever not post how dumb it was for them to ride then.

Just because a dangerous option is there doesnt mean someone is holding a gun to your head and telling you have to take it. The dangerous option should still be there though.
I agree with Bushwackerin PA.

People should be warned of conditions, not told where they may and may not ski.

EDIT:  Of course we all know the real reason they closed the run was so that some idiot who decided to ski it and got hurt because he misjudged his abilities would not be able to sue the resort.
post #14 of 17
I think the reverse happens too, when management keeps a trail closed to save it for a holiday week.

Closing trails for conditions is really a tough call.  I don't want patrol closing me out just because something is icy, but I also believe in realism.  Even if you mark a trail "Expert only. Solid ice.  No really, we mean it. I'd turn back if I were you."  there will be a lot of clue-free people getting in trouble.  Responding with a libertarian "well that's their problem, they ought to take responsibility for their actions" is tantamount to living in a fantasy world rather than the world as it is.

If we are going to live in a fantasy world, I'd like a gatekeeper at the top to evaluate whether you know what you are doing.  No wait, if we are going to live in a fantasy, lets just go straight to waist deep powder all the time!
post #15 of 17
Ski patrol doesn't always work for the resort. Mt Hood Timberline and Mt Hood Ski Bowl both rely on all-volunteer Mt Hood Ski Patrol. My understanding is that the National Forest Service contracts with those two resorts give final safety authority to Mt Hood Ski Patrol and there's not much the resorts can do to pressure patrol. Mt Hood Meadows has pro patrollers (augmented by MHSP), so situation may be different there.
post #16 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdf View Post

I think the reverse happens too, when management keeps a trail closed to save it for a holiday week.

Closing trails for conditions is really a tough call.  I don't want patrol closing me out just because something is icy, but I also believe in realism.  Even if you mark a trail "Expert only. Solid ice.  No really, we mean it. I'd turn back if I were you."  there will be a lot of clue-free people getting in trouble.  Responding with a libertarian "well that's their problem, they ought to take responsibility for their actions" is tantamount to living in a fantasy world rather than the world as it is.

If we are going to live in a fantasy world, I'd like a gatekeeper at the top to evaluate whether you know what you are doing.  No wait, if we are going to live in a fantasy, lets just go straight to waist deep powder all the time!

Well, that's about as silly as anything I've heard. Letting people decide whether a slope is skiable or not isn't a "fantasy world". It's the everyday reality around here. Closures are limited to only those that place other people at risk. If you are placing only yourself at risk, then you make the decision.

Does it have consequences? Yes. Last season we had a guy fall to his death on an icy chute. So far this year, one person has died by snow immersion. It's too bad they died, but it would be even worse if someone else started making the decisions about whether or not it's "safe" or whether or not you have the skills to go there.

Running lifts in a sub 12" snow environment is however a different kettle of fish. The lifts here don't fire up until the base is a compacted 36", and when they spin down in April we rarely have dropped near that mark. As a lift owner I would have a hard time justifying selling a lift ticket for 6" of slush over dirt.
post #17 of 17
A thought.  How much do the newer skis make this issue worse?   More people ski more terrain faster because of the skis.  When the conditions go to hell in a hand basket, it is all about the indian not the arrow, shaped skis won't make up for inadequate technique. 

We may know how a run can change in difficulty when the conditions go from optimum to marginal, but a ski week wonder may not.  A resort that empowers said wonder has the obligation to protect him from himself as well.  The JHMR story is a very good example of doing the right thing (golf clap), good lawyers could own them if bad things happened.

Just because your car can go fast does not make it okay to drive in the Indy 500.
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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › General Skiing Discussion › Who decides what trails are open? Mgmt, or ski patrol?