As ski areas grow and improve, mountains are having to improve the safety of the terrain parks. A huge part of that is educating skiers and riders.
National Ski Areas Association, with the help of Burton Snowboards, has come up with a set of catch phrase guidelines called "Smart Style" that are simple to follow. They've made a great video. All skiing and riding teenagers and 20-somethings should see this.
The first guideline is "Make a plan." Scott Anfang is the Terrain Parks Manager at Steamboat. He says this means you know the terrain, pick your line, and know how fast you have to go.
Second, "Look before you leap." Anfang says to check it out over and around the jumps before you go. "Know what's on the other side and how far you have to jump. If there is somebody in the way, make sure they're clear."
Third, "Easy style it." This means to start small and work your way up. Don't go for the biggest jump first.
Finally, "Respect gets respect." Give everyone respect, starting in the lift line maze, and throughout the park.
Smart Style is going global and you can recognize it by orange ovals. While regular runs are designated with green circles, blue squares and black diamonds, freestyle terrain is now designated by the orange ovals.
Steamboat has taken it one step further by establishing ParkWise. Terrain park employees have cards that they pass out to people in the area, with these helpful tips such as, "Call your Drop In," "Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself," and "Start Small."
Anfang says, "The biggest thing I would tell a parent that is coming in is to have their children do an inspection run. People who ride here regularly are going to have their established line that they ride and you don't want to block that line whether it is on an approach or a landing."
Ken Gaitor is the Freestyle Terrain Manager with Mount Snow in Vermont. He says to find a terrain park that is under a lift because then you can get a good look at it before you are actually in it.
He also says it isn't a good place for beginners to take their first run of the day. "The parks are usually pretty crowded and maybe there's a place where there is less of a crowd to get your feet under you for the first couple of runs."
Many resorts have beginner, intermediate, and expert levels of parks. Chris Eckert at Kirkwood in California says their beginner terrain park, called Adventure Land, has only snow-made features like rollers or S-Spines. "It's fun, but kids are learning how to balance on their skis and snowboard by jumping. If you're a newbie to the terrain parks, that's where you start because everything is only about six inches off the ground."
Tyler Morant is a freeride coach in Summit County, Colo., and he agrees. "I understand everyone needs to learn. But don't be trying tricks if you can't even stand up and ride your skis or snowboard. Get your basics down before you go in the park. You have to learn to walk before you run."
Gaitor's biggest concern is that people not stand in the landings, "because you are not visible from above and people are going into the air and they're likely to have no control at that point, or where their trajectory takes them. You're liable to get hit."
Anfang says that if you do go down on the backside of a jump, pull yourself out of the way as soon as possible. "If you think you're hurt, sitting there is not the place to figure it out. Slide to the side."
If he sees someone lying there, he puts his board in front of the feature as a barricade so that no one goes off of it. Then he runs down to check on the person. "This way, you are protecting yourself and the injured person."
Anfang recently saw a dad skiing the terrain park with his kids on ski leashes. While he can't tell him to leave, it was dangerous because the terrain park is above their ability level. "It's an awareness and an understanding that the terrain park is not a green run or a cruising run. There is a minimum level of skill that is required. Someone who doesn't know the rules will jeopardize the safety of both of them."