OPINION -- Are The Hunter Mountain Deaths Raising Questions And Will The Mountain Suffer?

With three deaths this season at Hunter Mountain in New York, the resort has been in the news quite a bit. This includes the following article that was released on March 14 by the Poughkeepsie Journal.

Hunter Mountain: A string of deaths on the ski slopes raises questions

CLOSE ALBANY - A string of deaths at Hunter Mountain have some questioning the safety of the popular ski resort's newest trails. Three skiers have died in less than two months while traversing the popular Greene County resort's newest trails - Twilight Trail and Rip's Return Trail - just weeks after opening.

The article gives an overview of the accidents that took place at Hunter and a quick review of the number of skier deaths per year. However, the article is more about the mother of one of the victims and her feelings on the entire scenario.

The woman, Christina Brown, mother of victim Brendan Brown-McCue, who was killed on Jan. 17, was the focus of the article in question. She did have a lot to say about the safety of the mountain and even suggested that area, which is new this season, be closed and inspected and was quoted as saying "I can't imagine any person, even in a corporate setting, with an ounce of empathy who wouldn't be struggling with can they sleep at night with these trails open."

Now, this woman is distraught and rightfully so. No parent should have to endure the death of their child at any age. But with that said, it is something else that she said that brings me to my point. Brown was quoted as saying "I don't think any thinking person can look at the numbers at this point and on numbers alone, not wonder whether there's an issue."

A statement like that does lead to questions, but not as to whether any trail on the mountain should be closed. It leads to questions of the understanding of the sport and will others be able to see that this is just a parent dealing with the death of a son and maybe not someone who does have that kind of understanding.

The simple answer to most of this is that we all know that mountain sports are dangerous. To think otherwise would be far too arrogant for most of us. All skiers, myself included, know that we are taking a serious risk each time we head up the hill. This includes runs in learning areas, which may not present as many life-threatening risks, but do offer up a chance for injury. This is actually true of any sport, but skiing/riding is especially dangerous. With that being true, I would guess that these skiers knew the dangers, accepted them, and died in what can only be called tragic accidents.

The question then leads to "Will the feelings of a mourning parent end up affecting the operation of the mountain?"

I honestly hope that it doesn't. Having worked for a ski resort for many years I have seen first hand how accidents and deaths can affect a mountain. There is almost always a decline in visits right after a few accidents. It is human nature for people to be scared. However, most of the time visitors realize that accidents happen, even when we work to minimize them, and the visitors return to the hill.

I do honestly feel sympathy for the families and friends of those who died on Hunter this year. But, I hope we can all see this as three accidents that happened to beat the odds. We can all still ski, even in the new Hunter area, and still, make it home just fine.


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