Editor's Desk - February 2007
Find a printable version here

Weird Winter Weather

I finally got to test out my new cross-country skis this weekend at the forest preserve down the road. This was despite the fact that I got the skis as an early Christmas present.

You see, we just got our first measurable snow here since the first week in December—and that's mighty strange. Of course, Chicagoans take it all in stride, and many took advantage of the weeks of spring-like weather by heading to local parks and golf courses. Golf in December? Maybe in Florida…

Believe what you want about global warming, but in the annals of weather weirdness, this winter has been a doozy. Temperatures in December were warm enough across enough of the United States to make 2006 the warmest year on record, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently announced.

Buckets of rain and fierce winds in the Northwest, traffic-stopping blizzards in the Rockies and a month of spring-like days from the Midwest to the eastern seaboard—it all adds up to a strange winter so far across much of the country.

And that makes me wonder how the recreation industry is coping. Have you had to change your approach due to a lack—or an excess—of snow? For example, ski slopes in the Northeast and elsewhere have had to deal with a much shorter season than usual—and the economic fallout it causes—due to the warmer weather and lack of snow.

Drop me a line at emily@recmanagement.com and let me know what winter—or a lack of it—means in your neck of the woods.

Happy Trails!

Emily Tipping
Recreation Management

Feel free to drop us a line. Any feedback is great; establishing an industry forum for the open exchange of ideas is even better. So don't be shy with your thoughts, opinions and questions. Any topic is fair game, and no query is too big or too little.

Adventures in Recreation

A number of municipalities are taking a page from the ski-area book and are offering adventure recreation for the winter and green seasons. After years of bending to the wishes of protective parents and overzealous lawyers, municipalities are starting to find out what youths want in order to get them involved and active.

"To alleviate the obesity crisis," wrote Franklin Stone of Common Good in the New York Times, "we need to focus as much on providing children with increased opportunities for active, stimulating and creative free play as on changing the way they eat."

A Heart and Stroke Foundation study in 2004 found that by the 12th grade, only 36 percent of students in a little more than half of schools take physical education. Children as young as 8 are being diagnosed with high blood pressure. Doctors link its alarming prevalence with a burgeoning obesity problem.

In North America, a number of municipalities have decided to offer facilities and programs that appeal to today's youth. They have moved into adventure recreation and, where possible, winter recreation activities such as snowboard terrain parks and tubing.

In the Township of Georgina, near Keswick, Ontario, we are designing a terrain park, tubing and adventure activities center from fill created by a major municipal project. The township will also offer a BMX and mountain-biking experience for the summer.

Our research indicates that teens and municipalities wanted a dramatic change. Municipalities must offer similar facilities to ski centers if they are to keep youths excited and active. In addition, ski lift technology allows a wide variety of skill levels to use the same lift with no learning curve. Our projects often include tubing as well as boarders and skiers on the same lift.

D.R. Matthews

EDITOR'S NOTE: The legal world in general, and recreational legal issues in particular, represent a vast and confusing landscape to many in the industry. Your best plan is to find an attorney to assist you with these issues. As Doyice Cotton mentions in the article referenced, you should be sure to find an attorney who is familiar with waiver law, familiar with your type of business and is able to present references to that effect.