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Inbounds, The New Out of Bounds? | UNITED STATES, COLORADO | 01/21/2009, by awesomepatrolwithin the boundaries. With all the recent inbounds avalanche incidents, are paying customers misled to believe that the terrain is absolutely safe?
While discussing the topic with the Head of Ski Patrol, at a very avalanche prone ski resort, I asked the question of whether skiers should wear beacons inside the boundaries. His answer, "Well, are you skiing avalanche terrain?" Eluding that, yes you should. However as a self proclaimed ninja, air guitar extraordinaire, and an avid skier, both backcountry and resort, I would not consider in-bounds terrain, avalanche terrain per se. However, after all the recent events I am definitely wearing my beacon inbounds, and altering my behaviors to mimic those performed in the backcountry.
What about your average tourist? The idea that they understand how to identify and negotiate avalanche terrain is being as optimistic as thinking that thin toilet paper will protect you from that plague infested porta-jon bathroom seat at the local bus stop. I will go out on a limb and say a large majority of tourists are under the misconception that the terrain they are skiing is 100 percent safe from avalanches. I know I was. But when I asked the same ski patroller, if he can ever be 100% sure that the terrain is safe, he answered, "Avalanche patrol is part science, part art." Of course art is, by definition, a subjective matter- one that does not leave room for absolutes.
So if these slopes aren't guaranteed to be 100 percent avalanche safe, why don't resorts educate their customers appropriately? Why don't their customers know about the dangers? The way I see it, it's a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Resorts could offer brochures, post signs, and most of all provide a crash course in analyzing avalanche terrain. Customers are already dropping Benjamins faster than a boy band one hit wonder; chances are they would pay for the class. The resort wins twice: they aptly warn people of the dangers, and then turn a profit from it.
As a ski-everyday snow enthusiast, even I never contemplated if avalanches were possible inbounds. Whether or not to wear a beacon is not the issue, as we sadly have learned. However education is. Resorts I am referring to advertise that they have the rowdiest, steepest, and deepest terrain, i.e. terrain that is great for avalanches. Once they get the consumer there, why not educate them clearly, simply and visibly on the dangers that lurk beneath. In the end everybody wins, everybody lives.