In December of 2011 our community suffered a great loss. John Marco Henderson, age 7, died after falling from the Mt. Lincoln chairlift while skiing with the Sugar Bowl Ski Team. In the years since, Sugar Bowl Corporation and Sugar Bowl Ski Team have worked with John’s parents to investigate how this accident occurred and determine what steps could be taken to prevent a similar tragedy. At Sugar Bowl, safety remains our highest priority.
Numerous interviews were conducted during the investigation. While many people recalled fragments of the accident, there were conflicting accounts and few direct eyewitnesses. As a result, we cannot state with certainty, exactly what happened. We do know that John was on the chair with two other members of the Sugar Bowl Ski Team and that their coach allowed them to load without supervision. We also believe the chair lift restraint bar was not lowered properly at the loading terminal and that children of this age were unable to lower the bar themselves. We found no evidence of horseplay or foul play. Ultimately our safety practices were insufficient to prevent this tragedy.
As a result of this tragedy, we reviewed existing policies, procedures and best practices relating to the loading, riding and unloading of the chairlifts at Sugar Bowl. We have implemented a comprehensive Safety Program that includes the following changes: restraining bars will be lowered for all minors under 51 inches in height (including equipment); increased adult supervision of children in the ski school and on ski team; and installation of strategically placed cameras on the majority of chairlifts to continuously monitor and improve chairlift loading practices. The Safety Program will be distributed widely and is available on the Sugar Bowl website.
Sugar Bowl is committed to pursuing the highest safety standards and we are working with the National Ski Areas Association and the California Ski Industry Association to increase chairlift safety awareness throughout the nation. The Board of Directors, management and entire staff of Sugar Bowl Resort and the Sugar Bowl Ski Team are dedicated to the continued focus on and development of a culture of safety. We look forward to feedback and assistance from our entire community in this effort.
John John's Way, is a run on Disney named in John Henderson's honor. During your next trip to Sugar Bowl, take a run down John John's Way as a tribute to a life taken too soon.