Let's be careful out there 

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Christmas is always a time we think of families, friends — of those we love.

In a town that lives and breathes adventure, that love can be tested not only by the elements, but also the choices we make.

In recent days, we have heard some horror stories on social media about shockingly poor mountain behaviour, some of which has led to injuries. In other cases, the sheer shock of the encounter has left the skier or boarder wondering if they should take a break from the activity.

Some of the worst offences are collisions. While many are no doubt honest accidents, there are others that are purely the result of too much speed while skiing and boarding without due care and attention.

At all times, mountain users need to be safe, but during the holidays, it is even more important to take care — no one wants to spend Christmas in the healthcare centre, or worse, left to grieve the loss of someone we care about.

This week, we heard from a grieving husband who is speaking out about the death of his wife at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort almost two years ago after she was involved in a collision with another mountain user.

Terry Woods told Pique that his wife, Ann, was skiing in a slow zone when a snowboarder hit her. The couple was on a dream holiday from the U.K. at the time.

"People don't think about, well, if it goes wrong the other side of this bump, the other side of this rock, round this corner, then can I actually stop?" Terry told CTV in his first interview detailing his push for safer mountain riding and skiing.

He is now waiting to hear if the 26-year-old man from Mexico who ran into his wife will be criminally charged in what would be a rare prosecution.

Since the accident, Kicking Horse has worked to make the run the accident occurred on safer, and it revoked the privileges of those involved at all Resorts of the Canadian Rockies resorts for life.

On a local social media page here in Whistler, one mom commented that her six-year-old son had been knocked over five times, the last incident happening just two weeks ago.

"The guy on skis didn't even stop until my husband yelled at him," posted the mom. "There is plenty of room on the mountains to take your speed elsewhere."

Many are now familiar with the #RideAnotherDay campaign. It grew out of the death of a child and the man who hit her on Christmas Eve, 2010.

The Johnson family was enjoying a day at Hogadon Ski Area in Casper, Wyo. when mom Kelli Johnson took her five-year-old daughter Elise down a challenging run, stopping partway to adjust Elise's ski. That's when a snowboarder, likely travelling more than 60 kilometres an hour, slammed into them. The snowboarder and Elise both died.

Now, parents Kelli and Chauncey are working with ski areas and the National Ski Areas Association to raise awareness of the issue.

"Up until now, for the most part in the ski industry, you have a lot of still pictures and signage that reminds us to be safe, but I don't know that to this point there's been a specific campaign that actually brings the reality of what happens when things go wrong to light," Chauncey told Colorado Public Radio earlier this year.

"To be able to get people's attention and help them look at this little girl, my daughter, the young man that was riding a snowboard, this could be your brother, it could be your daughter, it could be your sister, it could be your mom, just resonates at a different level."

As you ski and ride on Whistler or Blackcomb, or indeed any of the amazing local backcountry areas, keep that thought in mind.

Industry statistics, compiled by the National Ski Areas Association, show there were 39 deaths across the U.S. in the 2015-16 ski season — a rate of less than one per million ski visits.

According to the BC Coroners Service, there are an average of 23.3 deaths from winter activity each year here, with more skier and snowboarder deaths occurring in the Whistler region than anywhere else in the province.

Forty-five per cent of those are related to skiing (33 per cent) or snowboarding (12 per cent) and the most common cause of death was suffocation in an avalanche. Between 2007-08 and 2015-16, two skiers died after colliding with others in B.C.

Whistler Blackcomb has always had a focus on safety and it looks like new owners Vail Resorts are on board with that approach as well.

On mountain, indeed everywhere we enjoy our adventures, we have a responsibility to control our own actions and to respect others and look after each other.

This is true all year, of course, but perhaps at Christmas time, when family and friends are held so dear, this message must be kept front and centre.



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