Safety first on the winter slopes

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Tragedy struck the mountains of Northwest Montana on Saturday when two snowboarders died in separate, unrelated accidents.

A young man from Rollins was killed in a cliff jump near Blacktail Mountain, and an Alberta man died after falling into a tree well on the slopes at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Our hearts are heavy for the families and friends affected by these unfortunate accidents.

Tree-well deaths have become an all-too-common occurrence on slopes around the West in recent years, and in particular on Big Mountain — a ski area known for deep powder snow and excellent tree skiing.

The experts we talked to following Saturday’s tragedy all agreed that education is the best tool for mitigating these types of accidents. Whitefish Mountain Resort, for its part, has ramped up efforts in recent years to highlight the danger posed by tree wells and educate its guests. Numerous warning signs are posted around the resort and deep-snow and tree-well safety tips are printed on all trail maps and in the daily snow report.

Ultimately, experts say, the responsibility for staying safe lands on the shoulders of the skiers and snowboarders themselves. Be aware of the risk, learn survival techniques, and most importantly, always ski with a buddy if going off piste.

A skijoring success at Rebecca Farm!

By all accounts, the inaugural skijoring event a Rebecca Farm last weekend was a great success. Not even Old Man Winter could stop the show from going on.

Race organizers frantically worked Saturday morning to ready the facility for the hundreds of spectators who showed up, even after a major winter blast buried the valley and frigid temperatures gripped the region.

Congratulations to the folks at Rebecca Farm for making it happen — we suspect Kalispell has a new favorite winter tradition.

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