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Castleford Xscape - not impressed today with safety (bit of a rant - sorry!)

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
As you all know, I'm definitely no expert, and I am much more nervous than most of you! However I do think Castleford made some bad mistakes today, that fortunately did not lead to any serious problems that I know of. Maybe I am too critical and see dangers where others wouldn't? I don't know, but having badly broken an ankle a few years ago (NOT skiing!), I place great value on keeping my various body parts in one piece and want others to go home safely too!

I went today with 3 other adults and 6 kids (yes I know I need my sanity checking!). The 4 older kids had a level 3 lesson, the younger two were tobogganing with one adult, the other 3 of us were skiing recreationally. My friend had booked it all and invited me along. I noticed in the small print on the website that there was a race training event which would "limit the area on the slope for recreational users" and so my friend rang to check if this meant our plans ought to be changed as we didn't fancy tangling with racers on the slope - it had not been mentioned when she booked by phone. They said it'd be no problem, as there were not many in the event and they'd have about a third of the slope allocated to them.

The racing students turned out to be children and the slope was NOT divided in any way. Though they were extremely good youngsters, both in skiing ability and politeness, they were still coming apparently out of nowhere, hurtling down at scary speeds behind you. The major problem though, was a massive ramp, (and I mean B-I-G, far too big to see over or round) right in the middle of the slope, at the point where beginners get off the poma. There is normally a flattish area between the steeper upper section and the lower section and this had been eradicated, so there was a continual slope which divided into two narrow-ish corridors either side of the ramp and became more and more icy as the racers flew round it. Immediately below these 'corridors' there was on one side a rail and on the other side the toboggan area, so the lower slope was quite narrow and not all of it was visible by approaching skiers until they passed the ramp. An instructor I chatted to told me the ramp's hardly used but has been there a number of weeks and that one club is refusing to ski while it is there!

The level 3 lesson includes the introduction to the main slope, using the poma for the 1st time to the half way point, which as mentioned above fed the skier directly into the narrow section to one side of the ramp - definitely not ideal either for the beginners or the more experienced, being funnelled into these two areas where on one side there are cautious beginners emerging. This layout was simply asking for trouble especially as fast skiers repeatedly taking the same track round the bend naturally also caused loose lumpy snow to pile up either side. One of my adult friends who is quite competent to use the whole slope, but still very inexperienced went a bit close to the ramp mound and got thrown off balance as he slid off a patch of ice into bumpy snow and he then ended up sliding straight through the plastic netting and across the kids' toboggan area, scaring himself and the rest of us silly with mental pictures of what might have happened had it been full of kids - the few there were luckily were not in his path at the time. The dividing netting did nothing to arrest his motion and indeed there was a gap underneath it anyway.

On the subject of the netting, my friend who was tobogganing with youngsters noted that the netting had large gaps under it in various places, on both sides, and she estimated that a small child could easily have slid straight on through this gap either onto the main slope into the path of a skier or boarder or into the path of the poma users. Surely this area ought to have more than this to keep the kids safely confined and protected? Tamworth uses crash-mat like blocks to separate different areas, I would have thought some of these would be more appropriate for the toboggan area perimeter?

One other issue was a small child, not part of the racing club, aged around 5-7. This child was skiing straight down the fall-line, very fast, in a permanent snowplough and did not seem to have much turning control; speed seemed to be the main priority. Now while this happens a lot out in the open abroad where there is enough space and reasonable visibility, in the confines of the indoor centre like today, complete with obstacles, it is a very different story. I didn't notice a supervising adult and I saw a few near misses; after said child had whooshed past me rather too close for comfort I timed my runs so I knew its whereabouts! At no time did I see a steward on the slope suggest to the child or adult that this approach might be inadvisable, and some control useful. Mind you, as those of us who went to MK for Megamum's birthday saw, they seem loathe to do this despite it being official policy to do so, and on that occasion a lady's inexperienced and gung-ho descents led to her crashing into a poorly protected ramp and being carted off to hospital with a nasty fracture to her leg.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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If you think the slope is unsafe, you should stop skiing. If you carry on skiing, that rather suggests you think the slope is safe.
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NewSkier, What time were you there ?

I was the main coach of the Lions Ski Club training session which takes place every Monday from 7:30 to 9:30. I got our kids to do some low speed exercises until about 8:15 then they started skiing through the slalom course which took up the third of the slope furthest away from the poma that was operating. I don't remember seeing anyone skiing out of control during this time and there were quite a few Club Instructors and ASSIs skiing as well.

The first thing we said on arriving was that the ramp restricts the space available for recreational skiing. It will have to be removed before the weekend of the 18th & 19th of this month as there will be races both days using the whole slope. Hopefully they won't put it back afterwards.

If you were put off by how anyone else was skiing you should have spoken to the lift attendant. Jono is also an instructor (and snowHead) and knows all of the rest of us. We could have made sure that the kids only went to one side of the ramp when they were not going through the course.
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achilles, absolutely.
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
I love it when experienced skiers forget what it was like being a new skier wink
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achilles, I only used the upper part of the slope once as after that I felt it possible I might gain too much speed on entering the narrow parts and could lose control. I then very carefully chose my time to start off from half way each time, so although I didn't completely stop, the conditions did make me restrict my skiing area.

rjs, I was on the slope 11-12.00. As I said the race kids were not really a problem as they were all obviously in control and polite, but I still found it unnerving to have them arrive fast around me in the narrow lower area. I do think when there are things like this going on there shouldn't be ramps and rails, or even the toboggan area restricting the space and visibility. As for the one small kamikazi child, maybe I should have said something, but I tend to assume it must just be me and hope I can rely on the staff to operate their stated policy of approaching people who don't seem to be in full control, thinking the episode at MK recently might have jacked up the management's awareness of the possible consequences.

I don't want to be seen as a complainer - but it is good to be able to come here and share my worries with others who can explain/sympathise/ tell me not to be daft etc! I just want to become a safe and competent social skier, using opportunities in indoor centres to develop my skills in an environment where I don't feel that I am either excessively at risk, or an inconvenience to other users. Yesterday I felt the slope was not really the place for novice skiers to be. Had the centre simply said that this week conditions were more suited to the experienced, we would not have gone.
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Quote:

Yesterday I felt the slope was not really the place for novice skiers to be. Had the centre simply said that this week conditions were more suited to the experienced, we would not have gone.

And that is the crux of your argument. IMHO a justfiable point and whinge. Kids doing toboganning should be protected from skiers by more than a some plastic fence netting. And IMHO folks doing racing should not be allowed to mix on an indoor slope with recreational skiers. Yes you could have complained but would you have got back your travelling and slope costs if you had come off the hill?. A polite letter to the manager perhaps?.
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NewSkier, I think the whole point of this is that you asked if it was appropriate for people of your group ability to attend on this day, considering there was also race training, and the answer you received was yes, however it seems that perhaps this was not the right answer. I would suggest that you would never have had some one at Cas tell you not to come and cancel your group booking in the circumstances that you describe wink With this valuable experience however you will be in a position to make a more informed judgement for yourself in the future !
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Sorry I was grumpy - I might have been less so had NewSkier made his(?) point as succinctly as FTS. I still consider one is responsible for the safety of oneself and minors one is responsible for. I also wonder if someone concerned about skiing under control into a narrow area on a slope like that of Cas should be skiing without an instructor. That said, I think rayscoops has come to the right conclusion.
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rayscoops, achilles, But in this instant Xscape is the provider and would most certainly be considered the body that would required to have expert Health and Safety knowledge of the situation, and indeed to have carried out a thorough risk assessment. They are leaving themselves open to prosecution and a potentially massive fine should an incident occur. I am sure a risk assessment will have been carried out but IMHO it must be flawed or the appropriate actions have not been carried out. Recreational skier collides with racer due to big hump in the middle of the slope, who crashes through the plastic fence and splatters some kids tobogganing.

Messy!!
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Frosty the Snowman, can't argue with that - it is my take on the H&S@W situation, too. However, any skier who feels that a slope is unsafe has a responsibility to stop skiing on it, IMO.
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achilles, yes, in the short term, I suppose anyone who feels unsafe should stop. But that's no longer term answer, it just means that the slope is ultimately the preserve of the thoughtless/gung ho/snowploughing speed freaks or experts who have the ability to get out of their way and find their way round the obstacles. On this occasion it sounds as though the slope should have been safe for the mix of skiers if the obstacle had been removed and the holey netting repaired. The staff should be able to make a judgement about an individual who is skiing beyond their control ability, and that can obviously happen regardless of the slope conditions and skier mix. However, though it might be therapeutic to let off steam on Snowheads, it would also be sensible to tell the people on the spot how you feel, at the time.
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I nearly headed off down to Cas with the kids yesterday morning, just for a something to do (I'm sooooo bored waiting to start my new job). I was put off by the info on the website that a third of the slope would be cordoned off
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
pam w wrote:
.................. However, though it might be therapeutic to let off steam on Snowheads, it would also be sensible to tell the people on the spot how you feel, at the time.


Quite. We are of course taking NewSkier's word regarding the situation. Whilst I think he is expressing an honest view, rjs, who appears to be a rather more experienced skier and was there at the time, and the lift attendant, do not appear to have perceived the situation as hazardous.

[edit] But see rjs comment below [/edit]


Last edited by You know it makes sense. on Tue 7-08-07 9:27; edited 2 times in total
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Frosty the Snowman, If NewSkier was there between 11 and 12 it must have been this that was going on. I don't know who runs it and don't know whether any of our racers were on it.

Assuming the link connects to the page I originally found, it is to a summer camp run by Xscape.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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marmalade wrote:
Twins have gone to Snowboard Camp at Castleford today for '5 WHOLE DAYS'!! (staying nights at Auntie's house).

Thank God for Xscape - 5 days of peace and harmony. That is as long as Twin 2 (the accident prone one) doesn't hospitalise himself on day one. Expensive but worth every penny.

Very Happy snowHead Very Happy snowHead Very Happy snowHead Very Happy snowHead Very Happy snowHead Very Happy snowHead Very Happy snowHead Very Happy snowHead Very Happy snowHead Very Happy snowHead Very Happy snowHead Very Happy snowHead Very Happy
From another thread, wonder if her bambinos were involved?
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seems to be a problem with all the indoor centres... make money money money at any cost H&S would have had a field day if they had turned up at MK when we were last there
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CEM, Not sure it is just money money....

A problem with Xscape is that the responsibility for patrolling the slopes and warning/chucking out dangerous skiers is clearly with the "ski patrol". Most of these guys and girls are young and do not seem to want to confront anyone and tend to be too lenient IMO.

Instructors are there first and foremost to look after their groups and if they witnesss poor skiing are to contact the ski patrol in the first instance and if no action taken then escalate to the duty manager.
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Frosty the Snowman, totally agree with you, but I was just saying it as it is, not whether it was right or wrong. Sharing a glacier with any ski team is bad enough, but an indoor venue? not for me whether I am good or bad on the slippery stuff or whether the venue say it is safe Sad

Indoor ski = narrow piste
Indoor ski + racers + toboganing + learners = really narrow piste
Learners + really narrow piste = trouble
Learners + kamikaze kids + narrow piste = big trouble
Indoor ski + racers + Learners + toboganning + kamikaze kids = do not go Very Happy
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
CEM wrote:
seems to be a problem with all the indoor centres... make money money money at any cost H&S would have had a field day if they had turned up at MK when we were last there


oh! are my children going to be safe at MK at the DC slide and Lunch on August 29th?
Who can I sue?
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skimottaret wrote:
CEM, Not sure it is just money money....

A problem with Xscape is that the responsibility for patrolling the slopes and warning/chucking out dangerous skiers is clearly with the "ski patrol". Most of these guys and girls are young and do not seem to want to confront anyone and tend to be too lenient IMO.

Instructors are there first and foremost to look after their groups and if they witnesss poor skiing are to contact the ski patrol in the first instance and if no action taken then escalate to the duty manager.


Last time I was at MK the issue seemed to be staff & resources. While there always seem to be a load of people going into and out of and sitting around in the mgt office there is only ever 1 person on front desk who ususally has some incredibly complex problem to sort out leaving a large queue to build. Then on the slope there is one staff member at the bottom and another at the top. The guy at the bottom was doing a great job on his own - explaining to them why they weren't good enough to use the slope but then he also had to keep restarting the poma, handle fallen snowboarders and deal with complaining cutomers (e.g me) asking why only one lift was running when the queue extended out of the maze.

It is more or less impossible in the space available for even more experienced skiers to avoid occasionally getting close to the more nervous. I guess the only real possibility is to manage timed sessions by ability but then that would be a whole can of worms in itself.

The slope furniture certainly doesn't help novices as it locks the more cautious into fixed points of turning and leads to certain spots being polished but it is a steady money earner for them
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fatbob, i kinda agree on too much slope furniture, defintately restricts the skiing too much IMO for the odd good enough boarder that can use it.

Quote:

While there always seem to be a load of people going into and out of and sitting around in the mgt office


Generally these are instructors in between lessons....
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fatbob, the main problem when i was last there was un protected slope furniture...members of staff even commented on the fact it should not really be there, but they seem to want to attract boarders and freeriders so they litter the place with jumps and rails...surely i am not the only person that thinks they could prehaps put all this stuff on one slope and leave the other slope for people to ski / board on without the risk of impailment should they fail to turn or stop in time???

the other factor is the lack of staffing or the fact that the staff do not want to challenge someone who is out of control, when you pay you are asked if you fulfill the level required, so if you lie and don't fulfill that requirement then they should be kicked off [given a refund perhaps] but kicked off for their own safety and that of other users ... we used to ahve the same issues when i worked a Tamworth when it first opened, people said they were proficiant and as soon as they were on the slope you could tell this was not the case, IIRC we had a case of someone threatening to take the company to court for asking him to leave the slope as it 'ruined his day out' Puzzled Puzzled

as with anything like this skiing / boarding is a risk sport but the management of all these centres need to fulfill a duty of care to their clients, the only time it will change is when someone gets really badly injured and it ends in a court room
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I've always found MK to be pretty good for lessons etc - mainly as they are generally in the side area off the main Piste.

Agree with the lack of staff on the front desk and also with safety concerns - went once and we were first up the drag. There was a huge lump of ice (i.e. boulder) which hadn't been cleared and couldn't be avoided which took out both my boys and myself and the lady behind. Someone should have at least checked the lifts were clear before opening.

Never had a problem with crowding - but do tend to go out of season and very early
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IWent to MK and had a good day, apart from the slopes being a bit mashed up in places and icy in others, but the main problem was that the top half of the left slop was closed and the bottom half of the right slope was fenced off too (the beginner’s slope was clear). This meant you had to switch slopes halfway down and it became a bit of a bottleneck, especially when people of different abilities were going down.

Everyone has to start somewhere and my gripes are never with newbies, but it seems that organising the slopes isn’t a skill that the Xscape management excel at.
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Quote:

wonder if her bambinos were involved


Frosty the Snowman, Yes, I would think so. Embarassed They've just phoned to say that they've been doing rails all day. The Snpwcamps are billed as a chance to learn tricks and jumps so I guess the slope will be like this all week. The Snowcamp ends on Friday but they run virtually every week thru the summer holidays so I don't know if they'll dismantle the obstacles for the weekend.

NewSkier, Sorry if my offspring were troublesome (they certainly are at home!).
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I'm pretty much with CEM, on his view. I can't see why furniture is placed on both slopes at the same time. When I was at MK and the lady hit the grind rail, I thought it shocking that such a piece of equipment was left on the slope, totally unshielded from anyone being able to crash into it.
If you fall and hurt or kill yourself whilst skiing, well that's a risk that you are aware of and choose whether to take or not, but to collide with a large piece of steel that someone has placed on the slope without adequate protection around it, is neglegent on behalf of the slope operator.
At the MK ski test, there was a rail which did'nt have a snow bank in front of it, so that if you fell on the slope above the rail, there was a risk of impaling yourself on an unprotected piece of box section steel.
It really is a serious accident waiting to happen.

The slope operators are not dealing with a natural environment like the Alps, their slopes and everything they place on them are manmade, so it is their duty of care to ensure, that with reasonable usage, that they are providing a safe environment and the facility is fit for the purpose.

I've already witnessed one serious injury, I really don't want to have to see another, that could quite easily be a lot worse.
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marmalade, there were kids there who I thought were part of the racing group as they all had their own skis, poles with handguards on, and helmets with chinguard extensions and there were also the SnoCamp kids, who at that time on Mon seemed mostly to be doing drills on the nursery slope. As I said, to be fair to the kids, they were ALL responsibly using the slope, apart from the aforementioned one small one that buzzed down oblivious to the world - I don't think this one was part of a group. Please don't think yours were a problem as I am sure they weren't!

The problem wasn't the kids - it was that the set-up was not really suitable for the inexperienced skier looking to develop skills on from basic recreational standard and that fact was not admitted to us by the staff when we queried it, having seen that a race training event was scheduled. There were also lessons taking place that were taking beginners onto the main slope for the very first time, which in my view wasn't ideal, given the space restrictions too.

achilles, said
Quote:
I also wonder if someone concerned about skiing under control into a narrow area on a slope like that of Cas should be skiing without an instructor.


Xscape sell lessons for beginners at levels 1,2,3 & 4 each of 1 hour's duration. L1 & 2 are on the nursery slope, L3 starts there, and then introduces you to the poma and you get off at half way making snowplough turns all the way down. L4 starts at half way on the poma, then after this warm-up/review, you're taken to the top, from where you again do snowplough turns. If the instructor deems you 'safe' you are signed off as having reached "minimum recreational standard" having had a total of about 20 mins (in a group) instruction on the steeper top section.

From then on you are on your own, and are advised to ski at least 10 hrs before doing a level 5 lesson - I'm not a natural and not an athletic youngster, and still need to be able to spend time cautiously building on the basics - if I could go every week of course, progress would be more rapid. When off work, I have gone occasionally to a new morning session that is run midweek during school term time where there is an instructor available for casual guidance and he has been brilliant. I will never be good, I know that, but I hope to become competent enough to enjoy holidays. I am still nervous, but know my limitations & keep within them; the SH group that went to MK in June seemed to think I am getting somewhere which I found very encouraging!

By the way, if you want a private lesson it will set you back £150 for 1 hour!


PS I am a 'she'!
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Quote:

By the way, if you want a private lesson it will set you back £150 for 1 hour!


MK are doing summer deals for 85 an hour and a "bolt on" 1/2 hour private lesson for i think 15 quid if you pay for recreational slope time before hand, which i recon is a pretty good deal...
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