Skiers and riders appear remarkably resistant to bad news from the ski slopes.
Fatal avalanches that have hit resorts in various parts of North America, and a major gondola accident, which injured some but fortunately killed none, at one Canadian resort, have not seemed to dampen enthusiasm.
The balance between safety and ecstasy can be problematic for resorts and the skiers and riders they hope to attract. As skill increases, so does yearning for greater challenge, which often can be best found on the edge of safety.
Jared Ishkanian of Snowbird in Utah, where a young woman was killed in an avalanche Dec. 14, has noticed a heightened use of avalanche beacons.
"The loss was definitely felt very strongly by our community. She was a local, known by our employees and lots of skiers at the mountain, so there's a lot of sadness. By the same token, people are here day in and day out wanting to ski. They know the dangers of the sport. Our core group of skiers are continuing to ski and when the snow comes they're as enthusiastic as ever," Ishkanian told OnTheSnow.com.
Jeff McDonald of Whistler Blackcomb in BC, reports that snow trumps tragedy there, where a gondola tower failed Dec. 16 and two people were killed in separate avalanches over New Year's.
McDonald said that while he is pleased that skiers and riders are not deterred from their passion, he wishes they would take to heart the rules for safety in avalanche country.
"The gondola tower failure was a tragic event, but it could have been much worse. There were no deaths, only a few injuries. We're seeing that skiers and snowboarders are a resilient group. More common than not the response was, ‘We'll be right back at it as soon as we can.' We've seen no negative response to the gondola failure, we've seen positive response to some really great recent snowfalls we've had. With the avalanches, it's the same thing.
"The response we'd like to see is skiers and snowboarders take to heart more the safety guidelines. Whistler Blackcomb has always taken safety seriously. Skiers and snowboarders have to obey the safety regulations as they're outlined. When they don't they're risking a lot.
"We're happy we haven't seen any negative response in terms of numbers in respect to the avalanches, but we'd like them, as enthusiastic they are in embracing the skiing and riding experience, to embrace the safety aspect as well.
"The danger is so clear, yet there are skiers and riders who don't do their part. We wish they would," McDonald said.
Lisa Watson at Jackson Hole, Wyo. where one person was killed by an inbounds avalanche Dec. 27 and where another avalanche swept through a mid-mountain restaurant two days later, said, "It's too soon to notice any major differences in numbers. It was Christmas week, and as long as the mountain was open people were skiing. We had to close portions of the mountain for those few days, and we offered people refunds depending on how many lifts are closed and for how long.
"From a communication standpoint we've been really proactive with information on our Web site, and we have had the occasional call from a guest asking should they come or not. All we're doing is providing them with absolute factual information and letting them decide. We offered to refund money or let people use their tickets at a different time."
A Web site that tracks weather from the point of view of avalanche risk - jhavalanche.org - showed the Teton snowpack experienced two weather events in November that created a strong hard surface onto which heavy snow subsequently fell in high wind conditions, leading to high risk of slab avalanches.
Skiing and riding entail risk, never more apparent than this winter. But, it is apparently not yet scaring us away. But, a few bluebird days might help our mood, right?