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Dear Grouse Mountain Guest Services,
I am not completely sure to whom exactly I should send this
letter, so, the most logical place in my mind is here. I simply hope
that you will relay it to everyone that it may concern. Thank you.
I would really appreciate it
if you were to take time to read this email. Though it is long, I believe I have some important
points that need to be heard by someone who can relay it to the right people.
For the past five years (perhaps more, I cannot exactly recall) I have been a loyal Y2Play Season's Pass holder and a regular skier at your mountain. The main attraction of your mountain for me is the easy and quick access via public transit, and the superbly priced season's passes. Until I broke my arm at Blackcomb two weeks ago, I was pushing 50 days on snow, and over 40 of those were on Grouse. Although a few of these points will not be 100% relevant until next season, I hope that mentioning them now will give you some time to contemplate them. Here are the issues I am writing this letter to address…
The Terrain Parks: All season long, there has been a large problem with Grouse Mountain's jumps in the Quiksilver Terrain Park. At the beginning of the season, the jumps were poorly shaped and constructed. When I asked why it was done in this way, I was told there was a safety issue with building larger and more properly shaped jumps. Why is this? Because most people do not see the Terrain Park for what it is, but rather "just another groomed run". This leads to families and inadequately skilled riders hitting the features in the features in the "Highest Level" park. To make sure that these people did not hurt themselves by undershooting the jumps, the tables were constructed with a very low "lip" and a very high "knuckle". So, if any unknowing person hit the jump, they would only fall a few feet onto the deck of the jump. Flawless plan, right? Wrong. Even though these jumps have been made safer for the non-park riders, they have actually been made more dangerous for the people who the park is intended for. On various occasions this season I and others I ski with have hit a feature and found ourselves either bouncing off the highly raised knuckle, sending us into an uncontrolled and potentially dangerous tumble down the landing. Most of the time, the landings for the jumps are not nearly steep enough to accommodate the lip of the jump and treacherous "bombholes" are created as a result, not to mention the painful impact of a mellow landing. Here are a few specific examples. A fellow skier and very good friend of mine, Peter Warkentin, who is also an employee at your mountain, suffered a concussion on January 26th of this year in the Highest Level terrain park that put him out for 2 weeks. Now, one could argue that it was his choice to go off of the third jump in your terrain park, and therefore he accepted the responsibilities involved. Believe it or not, Peter's injury can be attributed to the construction of the jumps. The landings of the jumps were not made very steep due to "safety issues". As a matter of fact, when coming down from the air, Peter landed on the almost flat landing, therefore not having enough transition to successfully land. Had the landing been steeper, there is a good chance that Peter may not have been hurt. Another fellow skier, James, broke his collar bone when he landed on a too-flat landing with a "bombhole" on it. Once again, I stress, although these jumps have been made safer for the minority, they have in fact been made more dangerous for the rest of the riders. When asking if the park would be open the day after your Snowboarding Competition "Showdown Over the City", a friend of mine was told that they were actually going to change the park because the features in the "Highest Level" Park were too big. Doesn't that sound a bit odd? In addition, the new "Down Flat Down" rail that Grouse had made for the competition, according to Ben, will be sold because it is "too gnarly" for Grouse's "Highest Level" Park.
Where am I going with all this? The jumps in the Highest Level Park are being held back in terms of quality and safety because of the minority of people who enter the park: the families and young children. While they should have high lips, flat decks and steep landings, they are actually built with low lips, high knuckles and too flat landings. With flat decks, some inexperienced riders may fall short of the landing, but they will learn to clear the jumps. The minor pain in their knees is nothing compared to the danger of high knuckles and flat landings. Three seasons ago, Grouse had jumps like this. They were perfect, and safe. I am not sure what has happened since then, but it is definitely not for the better. Ask your head Park Manager. He remembers the jumps that I'm talking about. He built them himself. He will likely share my opinion. At various times throughout the year we have raised our concerns, but been told that it would not be "safe" for the riders who choose to cruise the park randomly. How can this problem be solved? The answer is simple. A Highest Level Park Pass. This would require park riders to sign a waiver, making Grouse Mountain not liable for injuries sustained in the park. It would prevent riders who do not have sufficient skill from riding the park. Most importantly, a park pass would allow the Quiksilver Terrain Park to reach its full potential and gain some reputation as being the best terrain park on the North Shore. Charge what you like, $10, $15, $20 for the whole season. Not only would Grouse make MORE money, but it would also greatly improve the conditions of the Park. Why? The major contributor to the deterioration of the features is caused by people riding up to the lip of a jump and sliding down the other side, destroying it. This also holds true for rails and other features. I know for a fact that everyone I associate with would gladly dish out the small amount of money for a park pass in return for a decent park. People who want to increase their skill level could simply use your Rookie Terrain Park, where the features could be made as safe as necessary. If the idea of a park pass does not appeal to you in the least, perhaps consider a less drastic measure. A "helmets mandatory" in your advanced terrain park. Although this would not completely resolve the situation, I hope it would at least allow your park crew to build proper jumps, as many of the inexperienced families at risk would be prevented from entering the park. Bottom line: You have world-class companies like Quiksilver, Oakley and Roxy sponsoring your terrain park, and it would be fitting to give Grouse Mountain the opportunity to have a spectacular terrain park.
Please do not misunderstand me, I am not naive enough to actually believe that terrain parks are a source of profit to you, but rather I understand that they are a massive expense. Even if the Park Pass suggestion is not a possibility, your mountain would have to spend no more money than they currently are to properly shape and construct good jumps. If tables like the ones I speak of are constructed, more people will be drawn to Grouse's terrain parks because of great jump quality. I know numerous people who ski Seymour for the sole reason of knowing that good jumps will be constructed there. When they come to Grouse, they are pushed away because of the condition of the jumps. The more people who tell their friends about how good Grouse's park is, the more exposure you receive, which could lead to more profit in the long run. I can tell you for a fact that no one I currently ski with goes and raves to their friends about "how good Grouse's jumps are." Believe it or not, it is quite the opposite. For example, I ask, "how was Grouse today?" I often receive a response such as, "don't bother, the jumps are impossible and the landings are flat." If there's a "sick" jump at Grouse, word is bound to spread fast and more people will come to ride.
Lift Lines: This issue has been noticeable in the past, but it has becoming alarmingly prominent this year. Nearly every Saturday and Sunday, provided it is not raining, lift lines are unbelievably long. On average, it will take a whopping 40 minutes to reach the top of the Screaming Eagle Chair from the point of lift line entry, not including the multiple times the chair stops. At a few points this year, the line was actually moving UP the Cut, and walking up the run was a faster option. How ridiculous is that? You have to realize that more and more people are coming to Grouse Mountain to ski, and the lift line problem is not going to go away. If the rumors I hear of a Grouse Mountain Village and Hotel being built before 2010 are sure, this makes this problem even larger. The lines will continue to grow and people will only become more frustrated. I can't truly offer a solution to this problem, as I do not know enough about Grouse Mountain's affairs to comment on what you should or shouldn't build. However, I am willing to bet that Grouse is not suffering from financial problems; in fact I would guess the exact opposite. Do you know why the T-Bar on the skier's left of the Cut was taken away? That thing was perfect, and would have been a great asset when trying to divert people from the Screaming Eagle in order to ease the lines. I can't imagine that putting one back in would make much of a dent into Grouse's funds, although I could be wrong. If not a T-Bar, then maybe another quad chair, that only ran on weekends? These are just far-fetched suggestions, but the thing I know for sure is that something needs to be done. I understand that there is now heavy snow maker presence in the area where the T-Bar used to be, so perhaps putting one in, in that exact spot may not be possible. Perhaps a different location would work. Say a T-Bar were built starting from the bottom of Skyline, heading up through "Garbage Bowl" and up the far skier's left of the park, through the open area that is never used anyways. It would then end somewhere near the top of the park between the Park Hut and the entrance to Buckhorn. This is both out of the way and would not require huge amounts of logging. It could even be called the "Quiksilver T-Bar"! I realize that this would be a huge undertaking and by no means do I expect it to happen. Think of it as merely a suggestion.
Closing Date and Late Season Jib Park: A wiser man than I once wrote: "Grouse is focused on getting corporate sponsors in a transparent attempt to build false press while all the while hoarding money at the expense of its loyal customers." How true is this statement?
Your mountain is closing on April 15 with a 400+ cm snow base. This is very disappointing to me. I understand that there have been years where you have had no choice but to close early due to lack of snow, but the last two years have not had this problem. I have been told that "no one comes up after the Easter long weekend." Is this statement based on a bad year for snow or a good one? This is a serious betrayal of your loyal customers. Many mountains would love to be able to stay open as long as possible. The fact that Grouse receives this much snow that lasts this long is a blessing and I feel deeply saddened that Grouse chooses to not take advantage of it. I know that everyone I associate with (well over 30 people) would ride Grouse down to the very last patch of snow. When I talk to other people on your mountain about this, they feel the same way. Perhaps a survey is in order? This aside, you should at least keep your Paradise Jib Park open as long as there is snow in that area. Having it remain open would be of minimal, if any cost to your mountain. The Paradise rope tow would not even have to be running! We would be glad to hike! Please see that there are still some loyal customers who would love to hit rails!
Your mountain didn't get to where you are today (#1 north shore ski resort) by ignoring your core business (snow-riding), but if you keep running things the way they are, sooner or later people will realize it and Grouse's popularity may begin to go south.
This is a response to a friend's suggestion letter on the same topic:
"Thank you for your suggestion as it is very much appreciated; however,
we are unable to keep any of the runs open past April 15, 2007. The
reason for this is that we require time after the winter season ends to
prepare for the Spring/Summer season, and this means that all of the
snow must be melted. If we were to keep some runs open, it would put us
behind schedule for the upcoming Spring/Summer season."
Would it really put you behind
schedule just to have the small area that the Jib Park
occupies still covered with snow? Do any important summer activities truly take
place on that small slope? I understand that you want to have the exclusive
Alternate Action Films photo shoot in the terrain park undisturbed after the
runs have closed, but can't the Jib
Park remain open? Please?
If I remember correctly, two years ago an effort was made to keep the Jib Park
open after all the runs had closed, and that required snow to be moved! This
time no snow needs to be moved, all that needs to happen is for a few rails to
be put in. We would gladly do it!
If I have provoked thought in your mind on even one of these issues, my goal in writing this letter is fulfilled. I dearly hope that there will be some change for the better on Grouse Mountain in the years to come.
P.S. Why are no skiers allowed in the competitions at Grouse? Why is the Showdown Over the City only for snowboarders? Why are snowboarders the only ones who win prizes at the "Oakley Night Jams" when the skiers who attend are clearly out performing them? Attempts have been made by a member of your park crew to plan a ski event at Grouse, yet we have been told there are not enough skiers to make it happen. In truth, there are probably more regular park skiers who ride Grouse's park than boarders. It's frustrating.