It’s not something anyone likes to think about, but most years there will be at least one death on Whistler or Blackcomb Mountain.
So far this season there have been three; two in bounds and one out-of-bound on the back of Whistler Mountain. When these deaths happen, the media (including this publication) write a news story based on the facts that can be released, sometimes following up if more information arises.
While Whistler Blackcomb won’t send out a press release on these incidents unprompted, they will provide information if specifically asked.
Following a death, RCMP and the BC Coroners Service are in charge of investigating the scene and the cause of the death. But details about Whistler Blackcomb’s own investigation to examine if anything can be learned from tragedy is a mystery to both the media and general public.
Undoubtedly the company takes these awful incidents seriously. But it would benefit the public if they were more transparent about what happens after the initial news release.
For example, on March 3, a 14-year-old Abbotsford student who was in Whistler with his school’s ski and snowboard club became separated from a Snow School instructor and was found dead at the bottom of a cliff on Blackcomb Mountain.
It’s an utterly heartbreaking tragedy for everyone involved — including employees at WB.
But aside from sending out a press release with basic information, the communications team would not respond to follow-up emails from The Question until asked a third time in response to this editorial. Those emails simply asked if WB would be conducting its own investigation into the incident, given that its Snow School was involved.
The response read: “Whistler Blackcomb is conducting its own investigation, as we do for all major incidents on the mountain. We are also cooperating fully with the RCMP and Coroners Service. The entire Whistler Blackcomb team is deeply saddened by the tragic incident on Friday.”
While we appreciate the sensitive nature of the incident, WB’s customers would benefit from any learning experience that could arise from this tragic death.
That’s true for any on-mountain death, whether someone was killed in a tree well, collision or fall. In all of these awful scenarios something went wrong and there is the potential for the company to learn from that and help prevent future incidents.
On top of sharing information internally, the company should also be sharing it with skiers and snowboarders who can learn from it as well.
Why? Because you can warn people about the abstract threat of something, but nothing hits home harder than a real-life scenario of a mistake or accident and its consequence.
If future deaths can be prevented from sharing this information it will mean some tiny bit of good can come out of horrible tragedy.