Skiers and snowboarders heading into Whistler-Blackcomb terrain parks this year will see a few changes in the way the parks are labelled. Gone are the green, blue and black difficulty markers on the features, which are being replaced with a collection of orange signs.
"Its all about the colour orange this year," explained Stu Osborne, the terrain park supervisor for Whistler-Blackcomb.
"This year all parks and features associated with parks halfpipes, quarterpipes, snowcross tracks, rails, jumps, you name it are now labelled as freestyle terrain and its signified by the orange oval, or what we call the orange pill. Thats the new icon for freestyle terrain."
All freestyle areas will be marked with the orange pills, as well as some idea of what kind of features can be found in different parks.
After some debate on different options, Osborne and other members of a Canada West Ski Areas Associations (CWSAA) terrain park panel, decided to express the terrain park progression through the Small (S), Medium (M), Large (L) and Extra Large (XL) labelling system. According to the posted rating system, each label applies to specific sizes and difficulty levels of jumps and rails. More importantly, the signage makes it clear that every feature is difficult but some features are more difficult than others.
"We used to have a sign at the entrance to terrain parks that advanced skills were required, but now the sign makes it clear that freestyle skills are required," said Osborne. "Again, were trying to educate people and say, hey, you need to know a little about jumping before you go jumping in the terrain park. Maybe get a lesson and understand what air time is like.
"Weve always built and marked our parks progressively, but this way the signs will be similar and totally easy to understand. Our instructors and staff are familiar with it, and its pretty straight forward for the public to understand. Everybody knows the small, medium, large, extra large labels, and probably has an idea of what that means when you apply it to a terrain park."
According to Osborne, it was important to get away from the previous colour-coded system for marking stunts. For example, people who can ski and snowboard blue level runs are not necessarily ready to take on blue level terrain park features.
So far the new standards have been adopted by the CWSAA, and have the approval of the National Ski Areas Association as well. This winter Whistler-Blackcomb, Big White and Seymour, Grouse and Cypress in the Lower Mainland will open using the new signs. Other resorts in B.C., Alberta and the Yukon will follow this season or in the near future.