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Ski patrol cracking down on rope jumpers

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Passes will be suspended for one month for first offence

Although the powder stash on the other side of the rope may seem too tempting to pass up, unless you want to lose the pass that got you up there in the first place Whistler-Blackcomb Ski Patrol is recommending that people observe all closure signs.

Anyone caught in a temporary or permanent closure area this season will lose his or her pass for one full month. For the second offence, skiers and boarders will lose their pass for the rest of the season.

"Over the last few seasons we’ve noticed a steady increase in the amount of people over the rope," said Wayne Coughlin, patrol manager for Blackcomb Mountain.

"A lot of them are locals, or people that have been here for a long time and have Ambassador passes. It’s getting to the point where permanent closures and temporary closures and fences are not being respected."

Last year, the ski patrol was issuing two-week suspensions for the same offence. Patrol decided to double the penalty this season because skiers and boarders weren’t getting the message.

"We found that people would gamble on a two-week suspension on a powder day, so we increased the suspension to make people realize what we do up there and why it’s important," Coughlin said.

Skier and borders who have ignored signs have interfered with and delayed avalanche control operations by wandering into closed sites, creating a safety risk for themselves and patrollers.

In the early season temporary closure signs are used to block off areas that have exposed rocks, stumps, cliffs and creeks. Some of these dangers are covered with a thin layer of snow and are invisible to skiers.

"At the bottom of Catskinner we only have about 80 centimetres of snow right now, so it’s not a good time to go exploring," said Coughlin.

In the alpine, temporary closures are necessary for avalanche control. Ignoring temporary closures in avalanche areas can delay the patrollers and creates a hazard as offenders might trigger avalanches.

"We hate to put a negative spin on this by focussing on suspensions," said Coughlin. "The message we want people to take from this is that the closures are there for your safety and the safety of the patrollers. We do our utmost to open as much terrain as possible, as soon as possible."

All closed areas will be clearly marked by signs. Some areas will be open to ski at your own risk.

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