Have you ever passed a group of skiers and snowboarders having a scuffle? Is there real beef? or is this idea overblown?
Right from the outset in the 1980’s most ski resorts didn’t allow snowboarders on their runs. Some owners thought the younger snowboarders would intimidate the upmarket skiers, while others quoted insurance liability issues as a downside. It seems the stage was already set for conflict. To some degree, the friction continues partly because neither party fully understands the other’s technique and its effect on others. Accurate research has shed light on exactly where the tensions arise.
After 1984 the number of snowboarders on the runs rapidly increased. Racks for boards and snow parks became commonplace and snowboarders gradually became an accepted part of each winter season.
But still, the conflict continues
Conflicts that occur between different parties is a well-researched topic and conflict models can be created and applied to offer practical insight into human behavior. Researchers looking at snowboarder/skier conflicts and created a list of typical thoughtless behaviors, which they gathered from skiers and snowboarders on the runs:
- Not in control
- Passing too closely
- Behaving in a discourteous manner
- Not aware of others around them
- Jumping unsafely
- Failure to yield right of way to downhill skier/snowboarder
- Obstructing a trail, entrance to a lift, or stopping on a lift exit-ramp
- Cutting others off
- On a trail above their ability
- Snow conditions damaged
What are the statistics for Skiers and Snowboarders?
The researchers interviewed a cross-section of skiers and snowboarders of differing ages and sexes to find out their opinions. The respondents were 66% male and 34% female and aged from 18 to 38.
Overall, the research showed that for snowboarders the presence of skiers creates neutral or slightly negative feelings, although the levels of conflict were low for both groups. While at the same time skiers experienced more enjoyment when they were in the presence of other skiers felt.
Younger Males are most often involved in conflicts on the runs
It’s interesting to see the predominance of young men in the cross-section study, which can be compared to young men in other scenarios. For example, similar conflicts are often seen in situations where young men need to prove their manhood with demonstrations of their expertise and dominance.
The alpha male behavior we see during ice hockey matches is a clear demonstration of this, although simply driving on the roads can occasionally lead to road rage and conflict. Skiers and snowboarders both have a special set of skills they have learned and are proud of, and so anyone disrespecting their skills is likely to annoy them.
So, What’s the Answer?
In the early days when the difficulty of integrating snowboarding on the runs was more acute, there was a movement that suggested the only solution was segregation of snowboarders and skiers on the runs. Thankfully integration has progressed, and conflicts have been reduced.
In reducing conflict education is key. Getting snowboarders and skiers to better understand the other’s techniques will help to break down barriers and misunderstandings. Simple information boards on the runs could use graphics to illustrate common misunderstandings between skiers and snowboarders and make skiing safer and more fun for everyone.
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