ASTM Task Force Sets Sights on Communication, Education

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SAM Magazine-Denver, Jan. 25, 2012-The meeting of the terrain park task force of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) F27 Snow Skiing Committee at the Denver Convention Center yesterday failed to produce the anticipated fireworks. There was general agreement that most of the variables in terrain park jumps are user-generated, and the session focused on outlining the group's future steps. About 75 people attended the session, one of the largest F27 committee meetings in years.

During the open discussion portion of the meeting, a variety of attendees from the worlds of park building and academia all agreed that communication to and education of jumpers is a key issue. The aim of the task force for the immediate future is also education and communication-it seeks to catalog and collect existing research on jumping, to gauge the scientific knowledge base, and to disseminate that knowledge to task force and ASTM F27 Snow Skiing members before determining the eventual scope and form of the group's work.

Professor James McNeil of the Colorado School of Mines helped defuse any potential conflict by noting that 90 percent of the variables involved in the outcomes for skiers and riders who use table top jumps come from the user, and perhaps 10 percent relates to other factors, such as the features' design. Several park builders and other resort representatives echoed that, and emphasized the need to continue educating guests about risks, and to continue sharing best practices among resorts.

Jasper Shealy, the task force chairman, noted that the standards development process could well take many years. He recalled that the standard for Alpine bindings settings tables took more than 10 years to develop, and that the shop practices standard now used throughout the industry was 17 years in the making. At the end of that period, when the standard was finally adopted, most shops were already following it, he added.

Shealy also noted that the task force has added two resort representatives to its ranks, Sierra-at-Tahoe GM John Rice and Peak Resorts terrain park director Elia Hamilton, to broaden the range of experience in the group.

Steve Hanft, site risk/administrative manager for Snow Summit, Calif., noted that the outcome of the ASTM process might not even be a standard. Hanft, a longtime participant in ASTM standards process, described himself as a "pro-standard guy," but he suggested the process might lead to a set of guidelines or best practices instead.

A spokesman from Burton noted that jumping is always going to be risky, and urged the task force to make signage and warnings a part of the deliberations, not just feature design. Elia Hamilton, parks manager across the Peak Resorts network of areas, suggested that eventually, awareness of the potential risks in parks, and in skiing and riding generally, could become so well known and accepted that it will no longer be necessary to create special warnings and signage for parks.

The range of ideas illustrated why Shealy said that one of the task group's first steps will be to decide what the issues are. Then the group will determine what type of standard (or standards) to pursue: test methods, specifications, or practices? To that end, the very first goal is to collect research and other information about jumping in terrain parks, Shealy added. Understanding and defining the issues or problems will help narrow down the group's focus.

And that is where the session ended. Shealy and F27.65 new projects chair Larry Young, whose committee is the organization home of the terrain park task force, invited all the attendees to submit ideas and help locate relevant research and studies. These will then be made available to members of ASTM and the task force members. Future meetings will then determine the group's scope and identify areas in need of additional research and study. That process is likely to evolve through several generations of study and comment.

And that's why this exploration could last for several years, or even a decade or longer. There's no reason to expect a terrain park standard will emerge any faster. \