Oregon Ski Fatality Raises Concerns about Safety

The recent death of a skier who collided with a snowboarder at Mount Hood Meadows is triggering demands for safety on the slippery slopes of Oregon ski areas.

“People are constantly asking me about it,” says Dick Knowles, director of the Ski Anthony Lakes Nordic Center near La Grande.

Skier Geoffry Braden, 45, of Portland, died after the Jan. 5 collision. The snowboarder has not been found.

Mike Gooderham, a member of the Anthony Lakes Ski Patrol, says collisions are always possible and that trees and rocks also pose problems.

Common sense and courtesy are the best defenses, Knowles said. Be cautious at intersections and yield to skiers below you.

Gooderham cites the National Ski Area Association’s seven-point safety code posted at many ski areas and on the backs of some lift tickets.

A common problem, he said, is skiers and snowboarders who obstruct alpine trails.

Ski instructors often get hit by out-of-control skiers, he said, adding that classes should be taught away from exposed areas and ridges where out-of-control skiers are more common.

He said the fairly recent mix of skiers and snowboarders on many ski slopes does not increase the risk of accidents because snowboarders generally are aware of the safety code and adhere to it.

Years ago when snowboarding was new, boarders added to risks on the slopes because many didn’t know the rules.

Skiers and snowboarders have a wide understanding of the code today, he said.

Gooderham notes that one member of the Anthony Lakes Ski Patrol, Butch Sagaser, of Mount Vernon, rides a snowboard while checking the slopes.

Gooderham says a broader use of quick-release bindings on snowboards could reduce fractures and torn ligaments.

Otherwise, when your boot is moving one way and your body another, something has to give, he said.

Gooderham, who has been on the ski patrol 45 years, said a study a few years back indicate that less than one skier in 200 who never had instruction suffer injuries each year.

Numbers are lower for skiers who have been taught.

Advice includes knowing your limits, staying in control, stopping only in safe places, using devices to prevent runaway equipment and staying off of closed trails.