Northern Michigan ski areas stress safety in wake of freestyler's death

Canadian freestyle skier, 29 year-old Sarah Burke, died Thursday after she was seriously hurt while training in Utah last week.

She suffered irreversible brain damage due to the lack of blood and oxygen.

With the news of Burke's tragic death, we went to some ski areas today that tell us accidents do happen, but there are ways to prevent life-threatening injuries.

The terrain park has increased in popularity in the past 10 years. Itâ??s one of the most popular places for big-air daredevils at Boyne Mountain.

â??Most terrain parks are advanced levels, they are some progression parks for people getting into terrain park riding, but level-wise, terrain parks are typically advanced," says Erin Ernst at Boyne Mountain.

And they have risks. Ernst says education, reading signs, scouting the area, and knowing personal level are key factors in staying safe. Boyne has a special online program to encourage safety.

"Stuff happens, you can have the best pipe in the world, and still have an accident, it's just the way it is,â?? says Kip Driver at the Otsego Club.

Otsego Club is making snow to build its Olympic-size half pipe for the "Rev Tour" that comes to Gaylord next week. Professionals and amateurs will display their ability, but for beginner level, driver says train before you even think of hitting the pipe.

â??They're inherently dangerous. Youâ??re going up 22 foot walls, and then everybody's coming out 10-20 feet above that, so you come down wrong, you're going to land on 20-40 feet on a flat bottom," says Driver.

Now, when you go to pick up your skis or snowboard from a rental, you can also rent yourself protection for your head. 61 percent of people that hit the slopes now wear helmets, and that's according to the National Ski Areas Association. For the age group that typically doesn't wear them, 18-24, in the past 10 years, they've seen a huge increase. 166 percent now wear helmets.

"Just want to keep it safe, don't want to get any concussions or anything unnecessary," says snowboarder Derek Dykstra.

Dykstra wears a helmet when he boards for safety and for his parents.

â??They like me wearing it most of the time because they don't want to see me in the hospital getting hurt," says Dykstra.

â??It's widely encouraged and can help have a more safe and enjoyable time," says Ernst.

And that's the objective for a sport that comes with risk no matter what your skill level.

To learn more about safety, here's a link to Boyne's PEEP (Park Etiquette and education program).