As this year's ski season winds down, Bogus Basin Resort will be relying on a new tool to help improve skier safety and reduce injuries in the coming seasons.
Using a new computer program developed by St. Luke’s that tracks where injuries occur on the mountain, the resort will ultimately be able to quickly identify problem areas and make changes to the terrain or procedures.
Omar Fricke, a lead for the Bogus Basin ski patrol, says ski patrol members have always collected data when there were injuries on the mountain, but that data was collected manually and added to a computer spread sheet on a weekly basis
“Since we only inputted data on a weekly basis, we often knew that there were problem areas, but we didn’t have the information all in one place,” Fricke said. “We knew we were pulling people off of various places (on the mountain) and there had to be a reason for it, but we never quite knew how to use that data.”
The new computer program allows ski patrollers to input data on a real-time basis, which then pinpoints the location of the incident on a computer image of the ski resort. Each pin mark can then be clicked on to bring up the specific nature of that incident.
Dr. Alex Homaechevarria, with St. Luke’s Intermountain Orthopedics, says St. Luke's information technology department was instrumental in the development of the program. The goal of the program is to use this as a tool to improve the health of the community by reducing the number of ski-related injuries.
Homaechevarria, who grew up in the Treasure Valley and learned to ski at Bogus Basin, said St. Luke’s has had a long partnership with Bogus and has worked with the ski patrol and other Bogus staff to help reduce injuries and ultimately make the ski resort safer. But Homaechevarria, said this effort will take things to a different level.
“This has the potential to make a difference during the season by identifying clusters of injuries and then making changes where those injuries are happening,” he said.
This season, the ski patrol has been learning the program and hasn’t yet put the data to use, but Fricke said they can already see injury trends in areas that will likely lead to some off-season changes.
The area most affected by injuries is the resort’s terrain park, which is popular with snowboarders. The computer program is so precise that it allows injuries to be identified at specific features within the park. Another areas that has a large percentage of injuries is the Coach’s Corner where new skiers and snowboarders learn.
“That’s not much of a surprise, because that’s where the beginners are,” Fricke said. “Most of the injuries there are a result of people renting skis or borrowing skis and then not having any lessons.”
Inexperience often leads to injuries, but there are other factors. Homaechevarria says that one of the biggest advantages of the computer program is the level of detail that’s collected from each individual.
In addition to information about the person, type injury, and where it happened, the program also tracks detailed demographic information which includes, age, fitness level, experience level and even the type of equipment being used, and whether that equipment is rented or borrowed.
“It’s pretty interesting the amount of information we can gather as far as the mechanics of the injury and the physical condition of the person involved,” Fricke said.
A screen shot of the injury tracking program shows all the injuries Bogus has reported this season. Clicking on a specif pin mark will bring up individual information about every incident.
Because the data also includes equipment information, Fricke said they can start to identify trends in the type of the equipment being used, all the way down to the manufacturer of the equipment. The program also tracks where rental equipment comes from, so they can identify potential problems at specific rental shops.
Homaechevarria isn’t aware of any similar type of system being used at ski resorts. The goal with this program is to prove its value at Bogus Basin and then potentially offer it to other ski resorts across the country.
He anticipates this type of technology would not only be beneficial in reducing injuries, but for ski resorts it could potentially bring down insurance costs.
“The advantages are two-fold. We can save resorts money and for the community we can make significant progress on reducing injuries, which ultimately will make skiing and snowboarding safer sports,” Homaechevarria said.
Learn more about Bogus Basin