Criteria for a good family tobogganing area
It should be noted that the following criteria apply to a municipality’s tobogganing runs as a whole as well as to each one of them individually. The public should be provided with a variety of tobogganing areas, which makes this activity accessible to all. Thus, some areas will be closer while others will be dedicated to more intensive activity. Tobogganing centres can be developed for this purpose.
Each tobogganing area contributes the overall services in this regard. If a municipality or another organization has several tobogganing areas, each one must be justified, defined and assessed with respect to the whole. However, each tobogganing area must meet specific quality criteria.
The main criteria of a good tobogganing run are:
- functionality and aesthetic appeal
Overall, the tobogganing runs in a municipality must meet three additional criteria:
- territorial equity
- pertinence and financial feasibility
When municipalities offer recreational services and, in this case, tobogganing areas, safety involves two dimensions: the feeling of safety felt by tobogganers and those accompanying them as well the likelihood of injury.
With regard to the risks involved, speed must be monitored to ensure that tobogganers maintain control of their toboggans or other sliding equipment in order to avoid collisions.
With regard to the perceived level of safety, users will feel safe if there is a track record of no accidents, if the rules are posted, if there is regular supervision and if the lighting and site location are suitable.
The risk of accidents
At 50 km/h, which is the maximum authorized speed in a tobogganing area, a collision can cause serious injury and even death.
Ways of ensuring safety
Safety can be ensured by:
a) the quality of the layout and design of the area
b) the quality of the of the preventive maintenance and repair policy for the site
c) the application of regulations governing user behaviour
Safety of the design
A safe design prevents collisions with obstacles or other users. In concrete terms, this is reflected in:
- a grade and slope that ensure a controlled sliding speed and a safe distance within which to slow down and stop at the foot of the hill
- enough space to allow users to exit the sliding area and a separate corridor for them to go back up the hill
- the absence of physical obstacles
Safety and regulations
Regulations are designed to minimize the likelihood of accidents and must be clear enough so that users understand the risks involved if the rules are not followed. They also constitute a “duty of care” on the part of the owner of the tobogganing area, which stems from his or her civil liability under the law.
- recommendations concerning equipment and its use:
- helmets, while not compulsory, must be strongly recommended
- certain sliding devices that are defective or that have irregularities that could aggravate an injury in the event of a collision may be prohibited
- instructions on how to use equipment (number of passengers and positioning) are posted
- instructions regarding traffic in the sliding area:
- time intervals between departures when the run is narrow
- the area at the foot of the hill must always be cleared
- obligation to use the corridor to go back up the hill
- instructions regarding attitudes toward other users as described in a code of conduct
The feeling of safety provided by regulations is achieved mainly by:
- promoting and disseminating the regulations in force:
- posters on the site
- publication in the local media
- information sessions on potential injuries and ways of preventing them
- visibility and enforcement of the rules:
- regular and visible supervision
- warning given to those who break the rules
- expulsions or fines, if necessary
Regulations that are promoted and seen to be enforced constitute a safety criterion that will help prevent accidents and provide users with a feeling of security. Families will then be able to fully enjoy this activity.
Safety and management and maintenance policy
Safety depends on a constant concern for the quality of the site.
If the surface is too icy and prevents users from sliding at the desired speed and with the proper degree of control, the site must be closed. If obstacles clutter the run, they must be removed. If signs have deteriorated, this situation must be rectified as quickly as possible. Steps must be taken on a regular basis to deal with these safety aspects before the site is opened to the public.
- Test runs should be conducted to ensure the site’s safety.
- It is also important to determine the site’s capacity and to take steps to ensure that this capacity is not exceeded. The more users there are, the greater the likelihood of accidents.
With regard to safety in general, the tobogganing area should be considered like any other public place in the municipality and be subject to the same level of supervision and the same safety measures.
Sharing the facilities with other users
Young people, who are strongly attracted to the sliding sports practised in ski centres, often ask for or simply occupy an area and use it for snowboarding. In this case, everything must be done to prevent collisions.
If an area is set aside for this purpose:
- define an area for this activity
- inspect the obstacles built and used by young people to ensure that they are safe
- strongly recommend that users wear a helmet
- notify the insurance company
Aesthetic appeal and functionality of facilities and services
Like any “product,” a tobogganing area should be able to attract users and sustain their interest. The quality of the facilities and services offered depends on the following factors: appearance, the capacity to attract users, the ability to create a sense of belonging and responsibility among users as well as the functionality of the facilities in terms of what they were designed for. This idea of quality must be directly related to the recreational experience in question.
For each factor, there are criteria to be taken into consideration:
- A specific tobogganing area, just as all tobogganing areas, must be able to accommodate a sufficient number of users to meet the demand.
- The aesthetic appeal, state of repair, speed and regularity of the hill, the quality of the maintenance and repairs, as well as its adaptability to the users in question are all indicators defined by both external standards and users’ expectations and perceptions.
- The standards for integrating recreational facilities must govern the way in which a tobogganing area fits in with its physical and human environment.
In concrete terms, a tobogganing area set up in a specific location should include:
- physical elements that define the traffic areas
- a lighting system, otherwise business hours will be very limited in the winter
- specific facilities for grooming and, when necessary, securing the runs
- metal fencing to set off the traffic areas
The manager can consult a landscape architect and obtain information about the facilities and products available on the market. The landscape architect must ensure that the tobogganing area fits in with the landscape.
Clearly, the setting will influence users' behaviour. Poorly maintained facilities will bring about negligent behaviour. Trees can be perceived as obstacles. A tobogganing area resembling an abandoned or isolated hill will no doubt influence the way users perceive their activities. Lastly, providing related services (e.g. parking, toilets, benches, garbage cans) helps to maintain the site’s value and satisfies certain basic needs. Without these facilities, the site would soon fall into a state of disrepair.
Source of original French text: Association québécoise du loisir municipal. Aires de glissade—Guide d’aménagement et de gestion. June 2006.
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