The number one goal on the mountain is to have fun. It is the ski patrollers that often determine what is open and what isn’t. The Free Press got out opening day to get some safety reminders about why runs may be closed to the skiing and riding public from ski patrol at Fernie Alpine Resort (FAR).
“Things are closed for a reason. Priority one is to go out and have fun on your given day. You are out skiing, there is no reason to get too upset or aggressive about closures,” said Shane Lanthier, a four-year ski patroller.
Many of the runs may seem ride-able in the top sections, but do not have enough base snow to ski or ride out of. As the season goes on and the resort gets more snow, closures can have many causes.
“We may be working in the terrain and we do not want people in there so something bad does not happen to us,” said Lanthier. “Just for personal knowledge, an AST [Avalanche Skills Training] 1, is geared towards recreationalists.”
“You do not need to get into the crazy snow science or all those things. But it gets you thinking about the terrain you’re in and aware of the conditions. So instead of going to go ski and not knowing why stuff is closed you know ‘I totally know why this is closed, I get why I am not allowed in there right now’,” he said.
It is also important to remember that although you may know the terrain, have the correct tools and safety equipment and have the skills to ascend or descend, other people will likely follow you. These people may not have the same knowledge, experience, and set ups making it dangerous.
“Whether or not you know what you are doing, if you go to the backcountry all the time, this is not the place where you can do what you want. If one person goes in there then 500 other people are going to go,” said Lanthier.
It is the resorts responsibility to all of its customers to provide areas that accommodate everyone’s abilities.
“You have to cater to everyone’s skills and abilities. That is the big one for safety. Just don’t take it so seriously. Have fun and go skiing, if you really, really need to get first tracks all the time, start looking at backcountry,” Lanthier said. “When you are here you are our responsibility. We play it on the safe side, and we don’t take chances. There are hundreds of people here, from first day on skis ever, and been skiing forever.”
In a perfect world, every run would be open all the time. Since skiing and snowboarding relies on nature for temperatures and snow it is unavoidable that there will be closures.
“It is a strange thing, people get this powder frenzy on. We have stuff closed for a reason. We want people to get out there and have fun. Ideally we would have all the terrain open and it would be a great time but that is just not the nature of it because we also have to make sure it’s safe.”