Hogadon Ski Area has takes steps to improve safety on the hill in the wake of a tragedy that killed a snowboarder and a skier Christmas Eve. Community forums contributed suggestions, and the ski area has already implemented new safety measures.
The tragedy Dec. 24 rattled the community of Casper, Wyo. A 23-year-old male snowboarder collided with two skiers, a 5-year-old girl and her 31-year-old mother, as the pair stood on the black diamond Dreadnaught run at the city-owned ski area. The man and the young girl died of their injuries.
Concerned skiers and riders responded with accusations about the ski area's culture and safety. The City held two community forums at the end of January to get input on how to improve safety on the ski hill. The forums produced a long laundry list of suggestions, several of which Hogadon implemented immediately.
"A ¾-mile beginner run has seen excessive speed on heavy use days," General Manager Gary Vantrease told OnTheSnow. "We made the entire Park Avenue run a slow run and installed signs." Signage included "Look" and "No Jumping" where skiers and riders previously took blind jumps onto the run.
"We also are working on education," said Vantrease. "We can't make it completely safe. But we can educate people on how to act and how to be safe. I think education is the most effective." Education efforts have focused around publicizing "Know the Code," a safety promotion of the National Ski Areas Association. The ski area distributes handouts with the code to everyone buying a ticket at the ski hill, and new paper napkins in the lodge broadcast the code.
The ski area also launched a new physical education program coordinated with local schools. The program teaches kids to ski and snowboard, with a heavy emphasis on the code. "We want to set a good habit and have a more educated skiership that will respect the hill," he added.
Vantrease addressed the accusations expressed from locals about the culture on the hill. "We also had some trouble with smoking and foul language near lift areas," he said. "That was easy. We posted signs banning both and instructed lift operators to caution people when they see smoking or foul language."
"After the tragedy, everyone looked in the mirror," said Vantrease. "I think we've seen a marked change in attitude."