The ASTM F27 Committee on Snow Skiing is poised to start considering standards for the design and construction of terrain park tabletop features. The committee's vote on expanding its jurisdiction was set to take place in August and September.

As a result, there has been quite a bit of wariness on the part of park builders and many resorts. "We have come a long way in the last 10 years," one builder told SAM. "Terrain park quality is far more consistent than it used to be," thanks to "the charge of a passionate group of builders, skiers, and riders who used their intelligence, work ethic, communication skills, and absolute persistence to solve problems and come up with the product that our customers demand.

"The amount of communication, research and attention paid is astounding," he added. "I look forward to seeing how fast a group of engineers can catch up with this train."

No doubt, park designers have done their research and terrain parks have evolved enormously. Will ASTM involvement slow down or hamper the continuing evolution of terrain parks? That is a big unanswered question.

Looking back at the rental shop practices standard developed through the F27 committee in the 1970s and 1980s-which resorts follow today-the ASTM process did improve the safety of rental gear and reduced the liability exposure of resorts. ASTM probably accelerated product development.

However, trying to put numbers, or standards, to a variable medium like snow is a far trickier process. And even if the perfectly engineered feature were realized, the user component still remains a key variable, a variable that can only be addressed through education. And throughout the last decade, resorts have made significant progress in that area.

On a positive note, it is important to recognize that ASTM works slowly and cautiously; it can be expected to be especially deliberate and careful as it moves into terrain features.

One reason for the slow process: The ASTM F27 committee includes a range of interests, with widely varying viewpoints: insurance providers, ski and snowboard manufacturers, engineers and academics, resort representatives, representatives from the legal field, and other industry organizations.

The adoption of design standards, if any, through the ASTM process is several years off. It will likely take years of research, analysis, and debate by the committee before it's clear whether any industry-consensus standards are possible, or what those standards might look like. Any final standards are determined by a consensus vote of the entire F27 Committee.

In anticipation of the expansion's approval, F27 set up an informal task force to review the existing information on the issue of designing tabletop features. The chairman is Dr. Jake Shealy, who is no stranger to terrain parks. But nowhere on the task force are actual builders of parks-an omission that seems rather odd given the scope of the committee's proposed purview.

To make sure that the terrain park subcommittee considers the input and needs of park designers and builders, it's important for them to join the F27 committee. And do it soon: The next meeting of the ASTM F27 committee will be held at the SIA show in Denver, Colo., Jan. 24-25. Membership details are on ASTM's website, www.astm.org, or you can contact the F27 recording secretary-Sid Roslund of NSAA-at (720) 963-4210, sidr@nsaa.org. It only costs $75 to join.

And let us know how you feel. Send a letter to the editor (rick@saminfo.com) or log on to www.saminfo.com and click on current issue, go to this Speak Out and comment. Open dialogue will help ensure an outcome we can all live with. \

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