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Speed a possible factor in death of snowboarder at Big White

Sunday, March 7th, 2010 | 10:46 am

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By Marshall Jones

What started as a beautiful banner day at Big White Ski Resort yesterday turned to tragedy after a 27-year-old snowboarder from Vancouver died after hitting a tree.

Resort spokesperson Michael J. Ballingall was clearly struggling with the situation when contacted today.

“At a resort like we have, there are lots of highs in our business,” he said. “Yesterday was a real low.”

Since he started at Big White in 1995, this was just the second time someone has died on the hill after hitting an obstacle, the last one about 7 or 8 years ago when a woman from Atlanta hit her head on a rock.

Ballingall said he hasn’t got any official reports of what happened just yet but has pieced together the basics. The man was part of a group of 10 snowboarders in town from the Lower Mainland joining another 10,000 people who hit the mountain on perhaps the best Saturday of the year.

A doctor was also enjoying the day on skis and wasn’t far behind the man on White Foot Bowl, a groomed blue run. He heard people on a nearby chairlift screaming for help for the man. The doctor was on scene within a minute.┬áThe doctor sent a tourist down to the Falcon chair to radio ski patrol which was on scene again within minutes. They worked on the man for some time before it was clear that nothing could be done. At that point it was a matter for the RCMP which were also on the hill, and the B.C. Coroners Service. Both agencies are still investigating.

The man’s nine friends were then cared for by a trauma care specialist with the Big White Fire Department who observed them and looked after their needs and ensuring they were safe for the night. Several ski patrollers and staff at Big White also saw a trauma care specialist.

For Ballingall and Big White, the question is what happens now? He has no specific information about how it happened or how fast the snowboarder was going. He knows the rider wasn’t wearing a helmet but more information is needed to determine if that is a factor in the incident.

“If you are going fast enough, the helmet wouldn’t do anything for you,” he says. “But I am sure that debate will be waged across Canada tomorrow.”

The resort will continue to probe the matter as information comes in. Until then, the same code that applied to skiers and snowboarders on Friday and Saturday applies today. The Canada West Ski Areas Association recommends that everyone wear helmets but also encourages education on the limitations of helmets.

“The primary safety consideration and obligation under the Alpine Responsibility Code is to ski and ride in a controlled and responsible manner,” it says.

“The biggest message people have to understand is that when you are sliding down a mountain, you have to observe the terrain and slide in control,” he says. “It is part of the alpine responsibility code to remain in control of your own person and if people live by that, you don’t have collisions and people hitting obstacles.”

Big White also has safety information on its web site.

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One Response to “Speed a possible factor in death of snowboarder at Big White”

  1. Norma Ralph says:
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    Your article was disturbing in that you prejudged a situation that implies the boarder was to blame. No such decision has been reached and is only speculation on your part.

    To emphasize speed control is not wrong, but to include it in the same article sends a message that the boarder was at fault and not acting responsibly.

    While most of your other details were accurate, this particular boarder exercised caution, not recklessness. I know this as I’m well acquainted with some of the young men who were also there.

    Please continue discussion on the forum: link

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