Browse Our Archives

September 2012

Now We're Talking

It takes coordinated effort and clear communication to maximize fun and safety in the terrain park.

Written by Clayton Shoemaker, Big Bear Mountain Resorts | 0 comment

From the beginning to the end of a season, one of the most important elements in every great operation is communication. Terrain parks are no exception. Think about how many departments are involved with terrain park operations, and how these departments work together to create and maintain a safe and fun product.

At Bear Mountain, as at most resorts, grooming, park staff, and ski patrol make up the “park triangle.” While there are other departments involved, strong lines of communication between these three departments are essential. Do yours have solid relationships?

It’s easy to say that you will get together throughout the season and keep one another informed; however, once the season begins everyone gets caught up in their own departmental needs and people often find it easy to make excuses not to meet. It’s important to have these meetings and keep the communications flowing.

To kick off the season right, assemble the three departments for a meet and greet. It’s well worth the time and energy for these crews to talk about issues from the season before and address safety concerns for the coming winter. It’s a great chance for everyone to get to know one another and forge strong relationships. In addition, these departments will become a little more familiar with each other’s operations.

Set simple goals for these departmental communications. Hold each department responsible for meeting a few times a week, or even once a day, to talk about concerns, possible changes, maintenance issues, and any other relevant topics. Ensure that the department heads are working together and creating a safety philosophy throughout the terrain park and general mountain operations. Encourage department leads to share information with their front line crews, such as the mountain’s stance on terrain park safety.

It’s also important to document this communication. Create a safety log sheet to verify that these meetings are taking place. Documents prove that there is a line of communication between key players.

Holding these department head meetings in the park is the best way to really understand what is happening there.

Triangular Talking
A great deal of communication has to take place when one part of the triangle—the grooming department—works at night. Good communication can mean the difference between an awesome gift to the park or a closed feature that waits to be redone because it’s the wrong shape, size, or location. Poor communication can create unnecessary expense as well as degrade the quality of the park.

Ski patrol is often the foundation of the terrain park triangle. Big Bear Mountain Resort’s ski patrol not only communicates with park staff on park issues, but also works closely with our grooming department for other needs on the mountain. This group prides itself on open lines of communication and training. Meeting with patrol to talk about trends on features, schedule contest and photo shoot dates, and discuss park flow issues and other concerns builds a strong relationship between these crews.

Lack of communication can have monetary consequences. In one injury case, a park staff and the ski patrol head had no known relationship or communication when it came to issues in the park. Park staff was maintaining proper documentation on the feature, but no real communication had occurred. This particular situation ended in an expensive verdict. The lack of communication between the two departments didn’t help their case.

This is one of the many reasons why there should be communication and mutual respect between these leaders. More opinions from different perspectives are always a good idea. Every issue in the park should be treated as important, no matter how small it may seem.

Communication in the Park
Park staff is the most hands-on of the departments in the triangle. They spend all day in the park, communicating with the customers and other on-hill operations and witnessing what takes place. They can address park safety with ski patrol and contribute to accident investigations. When ski patrol has a concern, it can approach park staff on the issue. Park staff can also give feedback to the groomers on features, changes, maintenance, and improvements. This information is typically communicated on a daily basis through the park supervisor.

Literature is another effective tool for educating your departments on the use of safety and communication. Employees want the tools they need to make a great park, and this includes written materials they can access for education, as well as others on general rules, regulations and safety practices. Guides like the Smart Style Notebook can educate your three key departments and set a consistent tone. The Notebook can act as a reference guide and can help stop park issues before they start.

I like to say that “the relationship is more important than the task.” If the parties have a good relationship, they will take care of the task. When grooming, park staff and patrol work together you can maximize your park’s potential. With open communication, anything is possible!