There's no question that winches can be a PIA. However, if there isn't all that much wind, then a winch will definitely get you higher. At least that's been my experience. A lot higher, even without the zoom. You can pull hard all the way up, unlike with a high start without wind.
A high start zoom is nothing like a winch zoom, if you've got a strong glider.
As far as untangling, it helps to have some experience, but snafus are possible. I've noticed that other people have a lot more trouble with my winch than I do. Retrievers really increase the chance for screw ups, and, IMHO, reduce the motivation to catch thermals. But they can be made to work ok too. If you're having troubles, don't try to cut any corners.
I don't think the safety risk has to be too much if the winch is sized for a 1.5 meter glider.
When I'm alone and I think the lift will be good, I tend to use a high start. But lately I've been using the winch more. I just wish the battery weren't so !@$#%# heavy. It hurts sometimes.
Originally Posted by John255
Our experiences with the winch here have been mixed. When working they work great, but when it goes wrong you can spend a lot of time especially untangling the retrieve. There would also be a greater safety risk for a public park.
For the same space you get about the same height except with a winch you can put out a lot more line. And, most guys zoom off the winch and gain some height. However, you can learn to do that also on hi-start especially is you've got a breeze.