Holiday periods at U.S. resorts are always a hectic time. The slopes are more congested, the number of less experienced skiers and riders on the hill increases, and resort staff - from ambassadors to instructors, park rangers to ski patrollers - are spread thinner. This is not to say the holidays are a bad thing...after all, busy periods are when resorts pull in the majority of their revenues, and those dollars are what make the rest of the season possible. Having just survived my umpteenth Christmas vacation week in Vermont, I was once again impressed with how smooth things ran throughout the holiday period. One thing I was not impressed with, however, was the utter disregard (the reality is it's probably more ignorance than disregard, but there's simply no excuse for that ignorance to exist) the general public seems to have for Terrain Park safety.
The resort I work for part-time (Okemo Mountain Resort) has multiple parks, each one designed for riders of a specific skill level. Regardless of skill level or feature size, however, the rules of terrain park safety apply to each park equally. The four main points of park safety, known collectively as "Smart Style," dictate that skiers and riders inspect features prior to using them, use a spotter on anything with a blind landing (the "Look Before You Leap" part), know their limits, and respect others around them. All four points, of course, are designed to keep everyone safe and in one piece.
Needless to say, I saw all four points - which are clearly displayed at the entrance to every terrain park at Okemo - being disregarded regularly over the holidays. Like I said, it's COOL to look before you leap. What's not cool is when an adult-sized adult DOESN'T look before leaping and ends up landing on top of my 4 foot tall 4 year-old student. Not only can such a bonehead maneuver lead to the loss of riding privileges (I have no qualms whatsoever about pulling the tickets of those that nearly kill my kids), it can also lead to the loss of your freedom (i.e., jail time), as Vail skier Nathan Hale discovered a few years ago. In the end, it's not worth it. LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP...It's the COOL THING TO DO!