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Update on Vail inbouds skier death: Denver Post article

Threads related to Colorado mountaineering accidents but please keep it civil and respectful. Friends and relatives of fallen climbers will be reading these posts.
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Update on Vail inbouds skier death: Denver Post article

Postby RobertPetrowsky » Thu Oct 10, 2013 12:20 pm

For those of you following the story, this has some interesting insight that has been learned through the depositions by ski patrollers. It looks like Vail could be in hot water.

http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_24278230/vail-misleading-avalanche-mitigation-deposition-shows

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Re: Update on Vail inbouds skier death: Denver Post article

Postby benners » Thu Oct 10, 2013 1:02 pm

"On the day of the avalanche, the upper gate entrance to Prima Cornice was closed, but the lower gate was open. The area between the two gates also remained open."

I wonder how exactly Vail is supposed to close the "area between the two gates". As skiers (and even more so, "expert" skiers) aren't we supposed to assume anything below a closed rope that can be accessed via gravity is in fact closed? By the logic being proposed by the family's attorney (or at least this article), if both of the gates to Prima Cornice were closed, the skier could have hiked all the way to the top of the run from the bottom of Chair 11, skied it with the same tragic results, and that would also be chalked up as negligence on behalf of Vail for not properly mitigating the closed run. In this case the article would read, "On the day of the avalanche, the upper gate entrance to Prima Cornice was closed, and the lower gate was also closed. The area between the two gates however remained open."

:-k

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Re: Update on Vail inbouds skier death: Denver Post article

Postby Jim Davies » Thu Oct 10, 2013 1:08 pm

I agree completely. The kid made the bad decision to poach a closed run on a high-avalanche-risk day, and paid the price. Grieve, learn, and get on with your lives.
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Re: Update on Vail inbouds skier death: Denver Post article

Postby RobertPetrowsky » Thu Oct 10, 2013 1:10 pm

Unfortunately, closures have been a grey area with the Skier Safety Act. I remember seeing a cartoon a few years back with pads on every tree making fun of a lawsuit where someone hit an unpadded snowmaking station that was in an area that was unlikely to be skied near. It is the same thing with closures. Do you assume people are going to know or do you close everything with ropes. When I was studying ski law in school I recall the current court recognizing that if it can be accessed via normal skiing from an open area that it was open. In other words, if the skiers could ski in from a gate nearby and traverse to the area, it is open.

What interests me most about this article is the fact that the ski patrollers gave testimony that didn't match the official record. When I have had to give a deposition I meet with my employers attorney and review the official record to make sure what I say in court is accurate and can be backed up with evidence. Vail is a giant corporation and has attorneys for just such an event. I am sure they would want the patrollers to say what was in the official record. It is a concern that they are giving conflicting information.

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Re: Update on Vail inbouds skier death: Denver Post article

Postby benners » Thu Oct 10, 2013 1:18 pm

RobertPetrowsky wrote:In other words, if the skiers could ski in from a gate nearby and traverse to the area, it is open.

Definitely, but as soon as you add the possibility of hiking uphill into the equation, you quickly find that closing off just about any area becomes close to impossible. For example if you had to run rope 100% of the way around an area to show that everything in the middle is off limits, closing the East Wall at A Basin would take like 20 miles of rope. Sure this would prevent people from hiking up the East Wall from the lodge at the bottom and skiing it when it's closed from the top, but should the resort really be required to go to those absurd lengths? No, they just rope off the logical entrance to the terrain or put up a sign that says "East Wall closed" and go about their more important business. If you hike up from the bottom and get in an avalanche that's your fault.

In Vail's case if they can establish the run was in fact closed, the mitigation portion of the argument is moot (as well as the contradictory statements), right?

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Re: Update on Vail inbouds skier death: Denver Post article

Postby RobertPetrowsky » Thu Oct 10, 2013 1:25 pm

I remember there were special protections upheld in court against uphill travel into closed areas. The assumption is that ski areas provide uphill travel and that anywhere hiking is required to access a run is well signed such as the gate to the North Pole at A Basin or the gate to Highlands Bowl. However, when protecting the ski area against someone skiing into a closed run, the area had to be something that couldn't be accessed on skis by traversing such as some of the terrain at Keystone where downfall timber precludes a safe traverse between runs. I think the court will defer to those previous rules on whether the victim accessed what was actually a closed run then decide whether it was safe at the point he accessed and it was only the terrain above which was dangerous. The real problem here is still that some patrollers don't seem to be able to reconcile their story to the official record.

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Re: Update on Vail inbouds skier death: Denver Post article

Postby Jim Davies » Thu Oct 10, 2013 1:31 pm

So, Vail is liable for damages because of a later misstatement by one of their employees? :wft:

That might be grounds for charging the employee with perjury, but it had nothing to do with the accident. This isn't Watergate, where the coverup was more important than the original incident.
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Re: Update on Vail inbouds skier death: Denver Post article

Postby peter303 » Thu Oct 10, 2013 1:32 pm

The judge/jury will review all the evidence and decide. It certainly wasnt all presented this article.
Both sides appear to have points. The decision will be interesting & important.

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Re: Update on Vail inbouds skier death: Denver Post article

Postby benners » Thu Oct 10, 2013 1:35 pm

RobertPetrowsky wrote:The real problem here is still that some patrollers don't seem to be able to reconcile their story to the official record.

Yeah for sure, that part is strange.

I guess there's also a chance that if the skier entered the lower gate and traversed right staying as high as possible w/o hiking at all he still could have entered the unmitigated terrain lower down and potentially kicked off an avalanche above him (i.e. there's a chance a skier could have died inbounds that day w/o breaking any rules). But that's not what happened.

Regardless, it's sad and unfortunate and I don't mean for the tragedy to be lost on me. It just irritates me when I read about stuff like this as I can't see how Vail would owe the family a dime.

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Re: Update on Vail inbouds skier death: Denver Post article

Postby ajkagy » Thu Oct 10, 2013 1:41 pm

benners wrote:In Vail's case if they can establish the run was in fact closed, the mitigation portion of the argument is moot (as well as the contradictory statements), right?


^^^this...I feel like the parents of the kid have no case really. It sounds like they want some form of "justice" in the form of a nice payout. Yes, it was a horrible accident, but all of the risks are clearly stated on the back of your season pass or lift ticket. Unless there was blatant obvious negligence unfortunately I don't really think there is much of a case. Hiking upslope onto a part of the run that was clearly closed shows fault right there. Does breck rope off horseshoe bowl from the bottom, or perhaps lake chutes? Obviously not, but anybody could just start hiking up there and get themselves into trouble...
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Re: Update on Vail inbouds skier death: Denver Post article

Postby RobertPetrowsky » Thu Oct 10, 2013 1:41 pm

benners wrote:
RobertPetrowsky wrote:The real problem here is still that some patrollers don't seem to be able to reconcile their story to the official record.


Regardless, it's sad and unfortunate and I don't mean for the tragedy to be lost on me. It just irritates me when I read about stuff like this as I can't see how Vail would owe the family a dime.


I'm with you on that one. I wouldn't expect anyone to pay my family if I died doing a potentially dangerous sport. There is a reason the back of every lift ticket has the skier responsibility code on it and a reason you sign your life away to get a season pass. The attorneys for the ski resorts have spent a lot of years perfecting the language in the liability releases and it is difficult for anyone to not know they are responsible for their own safety. In this case, at least one of the parents had to sign a waiver acknowledging the inherent danger of skiing and snowsports. It will be interesting to see how the courts look at this fact combined with possible false statements made after the fact.

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Re: Update on Vail inbouds skier death: Denver Post article

Postby jomagam » Thu Oct 10, 2013 2:01 pm

That language on the ski tickets doesn't mean that much. If an accident happens because of negligence from Vail Resorts, then you have a case. We definitely don't have all the info in this sad accident, so it's pointless to speculate.

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