Castlegar Nordic Ski Club making changes to ensure safety

Following a fatal accident in February, the Castlegar Nordic Ski Club will implement a safety program and address hazards on the trails.

File photo from 2017 Troll Loppet at Castlegar Nordic Ski Club.

Following a fatal accident in February, the Castlegar Nordic Ski Club will implement a safety program and address hazards on the trails over the summer.

On Feb. 10, Garth Johnson was out grooming trails when he was struck by a tree and killed. Following the accident, WorkSafeBC conducted an investigation and ordered that the club remove danger trees — any trees that represent a danger to workers or trail users, including dead and leaning trees — and take down a metal shed. The club’s executive opted to shut down operations for the rest of the ski season, and wait to do the work over the summer.

“We have to get an assessment of all the trees,” club president Winston Fayant explained following the organization’s annual general meeting last Thursday.

The mood during at the beginning of the AGM was solemn, as members remembered not only Johnson but fellow cross country skier Webb Webster, who passed away earlier this month. The executive also took the time to explain to attending members what happened following the accident and what actions are being taken.

Recreation Sites and Trails BC is going to take on removing danger trees over the summer, but the club is also planning to have two of its own members take assessment training.

“[Al Skakun, club member,] is taking an assessment course and Chris [Campagnaro] is our new contractor, he’s going to take the assessment course in Nelson,” said Fayant.

Skakun and Campagnaro will be able to assess trees in the Castlegar Nordic Ski Club ski area and then the club will pay for a professional faller to come in and remove any tree deemed dangerous. The club is also going to take down trees located too close to cabins.

A safety program will also be implemented over the summer. The plan includes purchasing a second satellite phone, a number of radios and new emergency toboggans. Club members will upgrade the emergency kits found at major junctions on the trails as well and will develop safe work procedures with staff and executives, which will also be shared with volunteers. The executive is hoping to have at least two more ski patrollers out next season, in addition to the two pre-medicine students who were out ski patrolling this past season.

“They ski together, and if we can get another pair skiing — you know if we can get someone covering the east side and someone covering the west side — then it’s all covered,” said Fayant. With 50 kilometers of trails, it’s impossible for only two patrollers to cover everything.

Overall, the goal is to make the area safer for employees, volunteers and skiers.

“We’ve just got to get all the safety things in order here so that we can continue with this club, because we have a beautiful ski area there,” said Fayant.