Olga Stepakova was only 26 years old when she died in a tragic accident on January 26, 2008 at Heavenly Valley Ski Resort situated along the California-Nevada border. A resident of Walnut Creek with a tremendous love for life and adventure, Olga was looking forward to having a great time while on an annual ski trip with her friends. An average but cautious skier, Olga was making her way down a hill when she picked up speed on a run that proved to be slick and steep. She tried to veer off to the side, so she could fall in the snow to slow down, but where the run split, instead of snow, there were trees and boulders that were not visible from the run. Olga could not see that she was about to enter into a huge danger zone and there were no signs warning Olga of the hazards ahead; there was no netting or padding cordoning off the tree well and rocks. Olga was skiing with a firefighter friend when she crashed and fell. Once she arrived at Washoe Medical Center, doctors determined she had no chance of surviving. She suffered from major brain injuries as well as a collapsed lung and fractured pelvis. Within 24 hours of her fall, Olga was gone. She was a young, beautiful and talented woman who had everything to live for: a wonderful and loving family, a wealth of friends and a successful career as a hair stylist. Her infectious smile and face would light up a room. Her sister, Julia Kozberg, said Olga was an inspiration to anyone lucky enough to have known her. Julia realizes she cannot bring Olga back, but she can do something to make sure other adults and children do not suffer the same fate as Olga.
In Olga’s Memory
Julia and her family, with assistance from the California Ski and Snowboard Safety Organization, have established Olga’s Fund in her sister’s memory. Donated funds will be used to support the SnowSport Safety Foundation in projects focused on data collection and analysis that provide insights and guidance to individuals and families who are interested in assessing safety factors at specific ski resorts.
Through Olga’s Fund, more people will be assured they are skiing at resorts that take safety seriously – by implementing safety measures – where signs are consistent, understandable and well placed and hazards and obstacles are appropriately flagged and marked. The SnowSport Safety Foundation will lend a voice to victims like Olga by supporting research that informs necessary ski and snowboard safety reform efforts to save lives.
Julia Kozberg encourages anyone concerned about the safety of snow sports for their own family and friends to contribute to the SnowSport Safety Foundation as it strives to make sure unnecessary harm will not come to them as it did to Olga.
Contributions can be made by visiting the Donate Now page. The SnowSport Safety Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) public benefit organization whose mission is to improve snow-sport safety and injury prevention through research, data analysis, information access and education.