“I’ve shown a minor modification to the grooming pattern could improve safety in theory, now I’m keen to work with engineers to trial it.” -Dr Will Harrison
UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute researcher Dr. Will Harrison has been hard at work studying visual perception under different lighting conditions to identify a better method for grooming ski runs. He wrote a paper about it titled “The (in)visibility of groomed ski runs” here’s the abstract:
“I analyse the visibility of “groomed” ski runs under different lighting conditions. A model of human contrast sensitivity predicts that the spatial period of groomed snow may render it invisible in the shade or on overcast days. I confirm this prediction with visual demonstrations and make a suggestion to improve visibility.”
After his research Dr Will Harrison believes by making simple changes to the traditional corduroy pattern left by groomers, skier safety could be improved:
“Snow at ski resorts is compacted and smoothed in a process called grooming, which has been shown to reduce accidents. Grooming results in a pattern of parallel lines in the snow, and researchers know a lot about how the brain processes these patterns.
I was interested to test if the particular groom pattern at the ski resort I was skiing at made it more difficult to see the snow. After analyzing the sensitivity of central vision under different lighting conditions, I found on overcast days the ability to see the standard grooming pattern was severely reduced.
This is due to the lack of contrast which makes it difficult for the brain to process narrowly-spaced lines. I determined a combination of differently sized groom patterns would possibly improve visibility, and therefore safety, of groomed snow in cloudy conditions
I’ve shown a minor modification to the grooming pattern could improve safety in theory, now I’m keen to work with engineers to trial it.”