Vail Not Liable for Death

A six-year legal battle by a family who lost their son ended yesterday with a jury verdict in favor of Vail Resorts. Thirteen-year-old Taft Colin was killed at Vail Mountain on Jan. 22, 2012 by an in-bounds avalanche. His parents filed a lawsuit against Vail. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that under Colorado’s Skier Safety Act, in-bounds avalanches are an inherent risk of skiing. The claim against Vail in Colin’s case was then restated as a claim for negligence rather than wrongful death. The family argued that Vail Resorts was negligent when it did not adequately warn skiers…

Tree Wells Pose Deadly Risk

The light fluffy snow which has been blanketing the west has also increased the hazards presented by skiing in trees. The snow is easily fallen into, often resulting in suffocation. On March 4th, a skier at Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana became separated from his friends. Later that afternoon his body was found by ski patrol in a tree well. In Oregon, Mt. Bachelor experienced a double-tragedy when the body of a male skier was found in a tree well early Friday afternoon, then two hours later a report of another missing skier prompted a search lasting into the night.…

Two In-bound Avalanches Hit California Ski Areas

An avalanche hit Friday, March 2nd at the Squaw Valley Ski Resort and caught five people in its wake. This was just one day after a snowboarder died there during a blizzard as a winter storm rolled through California. Wenyu Zhang, 42, vanished Thursday as the region was hit by a blizzard packing winds gusting to nearly 150 mph over the ridge tops. It dumped 3 feet of snow in the mountains. His body was recovered the following day. Squaw Valley Ski Resort said the avalanche happened just before 2 p.m. on Friday, and injured two people, one seriously. Three…

Lack of Skier Control Deadly

February continues the deadly trend in skier fatalities. A 25-yr-old Washington man died when he struck a tree on a ski run at Mission Ridge Ski Resort in Wenatchee, WA a week ago. Today at Castle Mountain Resort south of Calgary, a ten-year-old lost control and fatally collided with a pole. Both deaths illustrate the dangers of lack of control, and in the case of the youngster it may reflect the heavy snowfall conditions recently experienced by the Calgary area.

Snowboarders Behaving Badly

Collisions on ski slopes are not uncommon and, though most ski safety laws require exchange of information between the involved parties, occasionally a hit-and-run will result. But in this story from Aspen, a hit-and-run was complicated by a case of mistaken identity. On January 11, 2018 two friends, McKierman and Marx, were snowboarding down Little Nell at Aspen. One of the two blindsided a skier on the slope. An Aspen ski instructor confronted McKierman and asked for his ski pass, both McKierman and his girlfriend reportedly became verbally abusive. Witnesses reported that the girlfriend was stabbing at witnesses with her…

Fatalities Demonstrate Need for Ski Safety

Last week, a California skier lost control and crashed into a tree. He suffered a severe head injury and died at Heavenly Mountain Resort. The Santa Rosa man was on a beginner trail, and was not wearing a helmet. The rescue crew were forced to use a rope to pull the victim from under the tree which he had struck. Then on December 30th, two Montana accidents claimed two young adult snowboarders. One snowboarder skied out of bounds at Blacktail Mountain, attempted a jump off a cliff and died in the fall. The second victim was snowboarding at Whitefish Mountain…

Lift Issues Create Holiday Havoc

An unusual spat of lift mishaps has struck ski resorts large and small. On Christmas Eve, approximately 150 skiers were stranded on a gondola at Chamrousse ski resort in the French Alps. It took about three hours for all guests to be evacuated from the lift which runs about 80 ft above the ground. Many were rescued by helicopter. On the same day, a power surge halted a ski lift at Sasquatch Mountain Resort, a British Columbia ski area. A resort spokesman blamed recent ice storms caused the power surge which damaged the lift control panel. Reports of 100 to…

Less Snow, More Risk

Dr. Dan Gregorie, head of the California-based SnowSport Safety Foundation, has spent the past decade working for greater safety in the sport, and greater transparency by the ski industry in reporting casualties. After two deaths in Colorado during the early season, Dr. Gregorie was interviewed by Westword reporter Michael Roberts, “Skiing Safety Expert: Less Snow Means More Risk of Injuries, Death.” Dr. Gregorie explains why, when slopes have low snowfall such as our early season conditions, the risk of a serious accident increases. He also points out the lack of accountability in ski resorts reporting accidents to the public. Over…

Ski Lift Malfunction Injures Five

On its opening day of the season, Tussey Mountain, a Pennsylvania resort about 80 miles northwest of Harrisburg, a ski lift malfunctioned and several chairs slid off track and collided. Officials said that a chair carrying skiers and snowboarders slid back along the haul rope, starting a chain reaction that involved a total of four chairs. Local police reported that five people suffered minor injuries, including a ski instructor who suffered a broken jaw. Fortunately, no one fell during the accident. More than 50 skiers were stranded on the lift for as long as two hours as rescue crews lowered…

Third Snowboarder Death of Season

A third young male snowboarder has died after losing control. This accident occurred at a Lake Tahoe-area resort around 1:15pm on December 7th. The victim was boarding at Sierra-at-Tahoe on the lower Snowshoe trail at a high rate of speed when he lost control. He was several feet off trail when he collided with a snow fence. He was not wearing a helmet. Ski patrol called paramedics, but the snowboarder could not be revived.