Couple Hopes Their Tragedy Will Help Other Skiers ‘Ride Another Day’

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<p>(Courtesy of National Ski Areas Association)</p>
<p>Chauncy, Elise and Kelli Johnson enjoy a day on the ski slopes.</p>

A new campaign for skier safety was born out of a personal tragedy. On Christmas Eve in 2010, the Johnson family went to enjoy a day at Hogadon Ski Area in Casper, Wyoming. At one point, Kelli Johnson took her five-year-old daughter Elise down a challenging run, stopping partway to adjust Elise's ski. Then a snowboarder, likely traveling more than 40 miles an hour, slammed into them. He and Elise both died.

Several years later, Kelli and Chauncy Johnson are now working with ski areas in Colorado and elsewhere to help other skiers "Ride Another Day." Their campaign launched in Steamboat Springs with help from the National Ski Areas Association, based in Lakewood. As part of the campaign, the NSAA will distribute the video above, made by Boulder's Active Interest Media.


Kelli Johnson says she's glad six years have passed, and now, "I'm ready to allow and to admit that something good can come from something that was so painful for me. I'm ready to pursue that -- making something good -- that was, that is so tragic. I just see it as a way to help me and my family move forward."

Conversation Highlights With Kelli And Chauncy Johnson

Kelli Johnson on what she remembers from the accident:

"I remember going up the chairlift with her, and we were discussing which run we wanted to go on... I remember starting out that run with her, she actually was doing so well that I was actually having her follow me. And I only remember that I stopped to help Elise get her ski back on. I remember up to that point, but I never saw the snowboarder coming, I never looked up to see him. That is not part of my memory. I think it all happened so fast, that even if I would have looked up, it would have been too late."

Chauncy Johnson on what he remembers about that day:

"My most vivid memories of those moments were just hearing that there were three skiers down, only one had a pulse. That's forever imprinted on my mind and my heart... I live with the memories really every day. I would say that with time it's getting at least a little bit better, that I don't have the memories or flashbacks, if you will, on such a frequent basis. But when they do come... the intensity's still pretty much the same. My mind goes back to that day and those events pretty much as if it was happening."

Chauncy Johnson on why they want skiers and snowboarders to hear the emotional parts of their story:

"Up until now, for the most part in the ski industry, you have a lot of still pictures and signage that reminds us to be safe, but I don't know that to this point that there's been a specific campaign that actually brings the reality of what happens when things go wrong to light... To be able to get people's attention and help them look at this little girl, my daughter, the young man that was riding a snowboard, this could be your brother, it could be your daughter, it could be your sister, it could be your mom, just resonates at a different level."

Chauncy Johnson on why he keeps skiing:

"[I have the opportunity to] have my daughter's memory live on with me. My last memories of being with Elise were on the ski slopes, and while it was extremely difficult for me to start again, those experiences sort of help me commune with my daughter... In addition to that, we have other young children that ask us, 'When are we going skiing again?' So, I want to raise my other kids with the opportunity to do the same thing that we love and not raise them in a scenario where they're in fear of skiing or they're in fear of other things."

Chauncy Johnson on what the campaign wants skiers to do differently:

"It's one of these sports where you're always pushing yourself... I'm supportive of that, but what we're really trying to say to people is: When you're on a ski slope, you're not only responsible for yourself, but you're responsible for everybody else on the mountain. Your conduct can affect you and them. Not unlike defensive driving."