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Snowsports notebook

US boarding deaths up

Typical trend has more ski fatalities

By Tony Chamberlain and T.D. Thornton
Globe Correspondents / January 13, 2011

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Safety experts are at a loss to explain the high number of fatal snowboard accidents at ski resorts throughout the country, a reversal of the usual trend that finds more than twice as many skiers dying in accidents than boarders, according to figures from the National Ski Areas Association.

But so far this season, which began with nearly record snowfalls across the country, 11 people have died at ski areas, and the majority of victims have been young male snowboarders.

■ On Jan. 8, a 29-year-old male boarder was found dead at Montana’s Whitefish Mountain, apparently after hitting a tree. A 16-year-old male skier died after a Dec. 29 crash at the same resort.

■ On Jan. 6, a 25-year-old female boarder, missing for two days, was found dead at Alpine Meadows in California.

■ On Dec. 25, a 20-year-old male snowboarder died after falling into a creek when snow collapsed under him at Whistler. Two days later, a 24-year-old male snowboarder died from injuries he sustained after hitting a tree at Mountain High resort in California.

■ On Dec. 22, a 15-year-old male boarder died in a crash at Oregon’s Mount Hood. Then on Dec. 24, a 23-year-old male boarder collided with a 5-year-old girl at the Hogadon Ski Area in Casper, Wyo. Both the child and boarder died from their injuries.

■ On Dec. 20, a 31-year-old male snowboarder died after a crash at Cannon in New Hampshire. A week before, a 19-year-old male skier died when he crashed into rocks along the Zoomer trail.

■ On Dec. 18, a 35-year-old male boarder died from injuries received when he leaped off a 40-foot cliff at Wolf Creek Ski Area in Colorado.

Authorities and safety officials say they have discovered no pattern that would explain the inordinate number of snowboard deaths so early in the season.

Annually, areas in the US log between 58 and 60 million skier visits each season. Last season there were 25 skier and 13 snowboard fatalities, numbers that are about average.

Skis lure Bledsoe A custom ski company with the goal of making boutique skis from sustainable timber has secured the financial backing of former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe. According to the Missoula (Mont.) Independent, The Montana Ski Company, in its second year, has received venture funding from Bledsoe Capital Group to make 30 pairs of base models that will retail between $850 and $1,500. Bledsoe, a seasonal resident near Whitefish Mountain Resort, is an avid skier and was one of the first to take test runs on the prototypes.

Playoff promotions With the NFL playoffs in full swing, slopes will be relatively empty on Sundays until the Super Bowl, and a number of resorts respond with special pricing. Morning-only Sunday tickets at Whaleback are $15. Sunday afternoons are $20 at Burke Mountain and King Pine, $28 at Shawnee Peak, and $30 at Black Mountain. An after-2 p.m. ticket at Okemo is $30.

Demo days coming Waterville Valley has free telemark demos on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. A lift ticket or season pass is required to test equipment . . . Also on Saturday, Great Glen Trails has a 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nordic demo day . . . Bromley has $49 tickets for Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr., holiday, and the used Jan. 17 ticket can be presented later in the season for $10 off a separate weekend ticket or holiday ticket . . . Drivers of hybrid and alternative-fuel vehicles get a free Cranmore lift ticket on Jan. 22 in honor of Biodiesel Day . . . Sugarloaf has a winter triathlon Jan. 23. The event starts with a 1.5-kilometer ice skate, a 1.5-kilometer snowshoe circuit, then a 4-kilometer freestyle ski loop. Start time is 10:30 a.m. with a $15 entry fee . . . Jan. 25 is price rollback day at Mad River Glen, with tickets sliced to the 1948 rate of $3.50.

Variety at Okemo Okemo is offering consumers mixed-mountain variety with multi-day tickets: Buy a three-day or longer lift ticket at Okemo and you can ski one day at either Mount Sunapee or Stratton Mountain . . . Bretton Woods has a cost-effective solution for parents who split their time switching off between skiing and looking after kids in the lodge. You can ask for an “identical’’ ticket at the window that is interchangeable between mom and dad but can only be used by one person at a time. Regular pricing applies, but you only have to buy one ticket . . . Bolton Valley has $19 skiing from 4-8 p.m. every Saturday this winter . . . Find the flamingo, ski free at Ragged Mountain. Each day, the Ragged ski patrol hides “Sweeps,’’ the mountain’s pink winged mascot, somewhere on the hill. Any skier who sleuths out Sweeps and brings him to guest services gets a lift ticket good for another day.