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Report clears Vail Resorts in death of teen skier in avalanche

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

Report clears Vail Resorts in death of teen skier in avalanche

POSTED:   06/03/2012 01:00:00 AM MDT
UPDATED:   06/03/2012 01:04:35 AM MDT
By Erin Udell
The Denver Post
 
 

 More than four months after 13-year-old skier Taft Conlin was killed in an avalanche on Vail Mountain, the White River National Forest has released an incident report saying the resort complied with its operating procedures.

Despite these findings, Taft's mother, Dr. Louise Ingalls, said she's "confounded and saddened" that neither Vail Resorts nor the U.S. Forest Service would agree to make changes that could prevent a similar accident.

Conlin and two of his friends were skiing the Prima Cornice area on Jan. 22 when they were caught in the avalanche.

Although the upper Prima Cornice area's gate indicated that the run was closed, the lower gate — through which Conlin and his friends entered — was open. From there, the three hiked up the side of the run. They started skiing down but were caught in the avalanche.

The snow carried Conlin into a spruce forest, where he was found buried and resting against a tree. He had died of blows to the chest, said Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis.

"He (Taft) was a responsible skier. He entered the run through an open gate," Ingalls said. "Vail Resorts claims the boys skied into a closed area, but they left the door open. There are rules about properly closing a ski run. Vail Resorts didn't follow those rules."

Taft's family — and the parents of a boy Taft was skiing with that day — released a statement about how disappointed they were by the Forest Service's incident review, which only addressed whether Vail Resorts was abiding by the parameters of its Forest Service permit.

But, according to Scott Fitzwilliams, the forest supervisor who completed the report, it wasn't designed to "determine fault or blame."

Fitzwilliams said since he didn't find the resort in violation of its permit, it would not be normal procedure to continue looking into the accident.

As for changes being made on the mountain, Fitzwilliams said that, while Vail Resorts and the Forest Service didn't commit to making changes, that doesn't mean they can't still happen.

According to him, putting every rope and sign specification in the operating plan for more than 43,000 acres and 11 ski areas would be impossible.

Instead, the ski safety professionals on the mountain are responsible for making those individual decisions based on that day.

"At the beginning of every ski season, they'll go out and look at suggestions from the ski area. We'll look at all different things. Certainly we'll talk about this incident," Fitzwilliams said.

"Because we found no non-compliance (issues), that doesn't mean we don't make changes. We do every single year."

But Ingalls said not committing to any changes in the report sends the wrong message.

"We were so hopeful that something might come out of it and, in this (the White River National Forest) review, they're basically saying that they're not willing to make any changes or investigate my son's death," she said.

"When you lose a child, everything in your world irrevocably shifts, and I mean everything. I miss him so much," she said.

"I don't know what the next steps are going to be."



Read more:Report clears Vail Resorts in death of teen skier in avalanche - The Denver Posthttp://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_20770196/report-clears-vail-resorts-death-teen-skier-avalanche#ixzz1wkvajubC
Read The Denver Post's Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse

post #2 of 24
Thread Starter 

The key in this is, How far did they hike up? Funny how there has never been an answer to that. Was it 5 steps or 5 meters? Or farther?

 

eta: ok ... found it in another article; this one is much better than the previous

 

http://www.summitdaily.com/article/20120603/NEWS/120609962/1078&ParentProfile=1055

 

 

 

....


Line in the snow?
On Jan. 22, around 1 p.m., five young skiers passed through an open gate in the Lower Prima Cornice area looking for fresh snow. Several others had already skied into the area that day, after one of last winter's rare storms dropped new snow.

A rope indicating it was closed blocked the upper gate at the top of the Prima Cornice run.

Three of those skiers sidestepped about 120 feet up the hill and to the south when the avalanche released, according to the CAIC report.

Two skiers made it to safety, skiing down to the bottom of the Northwoods Express to report it. But the avalanche caught Conlin and carried him through a spruce forest until he came to rest against a tree, upside down.

Coroner Kara Bettis ruled that Conlin was killed by blunt force trauma — blows to his chest. He did not suffocate, she said.

The CAIC staff investigated the slide site the next day and saw numerous ski and snowboard tracks in the area.

“Since we do not know exactly when the tracks were made, we cannot completely rule out the possibility that another rider, not in this group, triggered the avalanche,” the CAIC report stated. 

 

The Forest Service's review
In incidents like this, it's Forest Service policy to review operating plans and permits, Fitzwilliams said.

“If you find something out of whack, you change it, Fitzwilliams said. “We found no instances when they were in non-compliance.”

Fitzwilliams said he found nothing that needed to be changed in Vail Resorts' special use permit, the terms under which the company operates in the White River National Forest.

“I found nothing in the permit that needed to be changed, and we depend on snow safety professionals who are out on the ground evaluating the changing conditions,” Fitzwilliams said. “But that doesn't mean we don't make year-to-year, day-to-day and hour-to-hour changes, based on conditions.”

In the hours following the avalanche, some reports said the boys ducked under a rope. Not true, Fitzwilliams said.

“The kids did not duck a rope. That was a rumor,” Fitzwilliams said. 

 

What's closed, what's not?
Kristi Ferraro, a local attorney whose son Peter was injured in the avalanche said the boys did nothing wrong.

“They are expert skiers and were following all the rules of the skier responsibility code,” Ferraro said Friday in a statement.

“The Colorado Skier Safety Act does not prohibit skiers from sidestepping up or traversing across a slope,” Ferraro wrote. “The boys did not duck a rope or knowingly ski into the closed terrain. They accessed the run through an open gate.”

Under the act, skiers have a duty not to ski on a ski slope that has been properly posted as “closed,” Ferraro said.

If part of a run is closed, the act requires a sign notifying the public about the closure at each identified entrance of each portion of the closed slope, Ferraro said, citing the act.

“The purpose of this provision is to make clear to the public, by signs or ropes, that proceeding beyond the sign or rope is skiing into a closed area,” Ferraro said. “If a ski area operator wants to prohibit sidestepping or traversing into a closed area, a sign or rope between the open gate and the closed area is required, because the open gate is another entrance into a closed area,” Ferraro said.

The boys entered the run from the side, as did several others during the day, according to incident reports.

“It is insufficient to close the run at the top, but not on the sides, if the closed area can be entered from the side,” Ferraro said. 

 

No change
Ingalls, Taft's father Steve Conlin, and Peter's father Craig Ferraro say they asked repeatedly to meet with Vail Resorts not long after the Jan. 22 incident, with the goal of keeping something like this from happening again.

“We begged Vail Resorts in the first meeting and two subsequent meetings to change their roping and/or signage policies, but they have steadfastly refused to commit to any changes,” Ingalls said.

After Vail Resorts rejected them, they turned to the Forest Service. Officially, the Forest Service said only that the ski company did not violate its permit or procedures, Ingalls said.

While Vail Mountain's accident rate per 1,000 skiers is half the national average, it doesn't fix this tragedy, Fitzwilliams said.

“We make the mountain as safe as we can. It's an inherently dangerous sport,” Fitzwilliams said. 

Edited by segbrown - 6/3/12 at 11:43am
post #3 of 24
Thread Starter 

I think Vail is okay here, and I think they will probably make changes (ie, signs that say "Don't hike up" or something), but they don't want to admit any sort of wrongdoing at this point. 120 ft is kind of obvious, IMO.

post #4 of 24

Agree.  

"refused to commit to any changes"  is not the same as "refusing to make any changes"

 

They're the resort that puts up signs that say "No straightlining".

I think they just don't want to be locked into the "commitment" part.  

 

Any debate, especially with legal consequences, often gets caught up in sematics like that.

post #5 of 24

At Squaw, due to the extent of hiking inbounds, the sign reads: no hiking or traversing above this sign.

 

IMO, the kids were clearly skiing a closed area, no question, and furthermore, they knew it

post #6 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by davluri View Post

At Squaw, due to the extent of hiking inbounds, the sign reads: no hiking or traversing above this sign.

 

IMO, the kids were clearly skiing a closed area, no question, and furthermore, they knew it

 

Yeah, Vail only has about 3 inbounds places where it would be an issue, a very different mountain.

 

And yes, if they hiked up 120 ft, the kids probably knew it, to the extent that they really "know" anything. (I'm still wary of the language ... 120 ft up and to the south, what does that mean exactly? 120 up and THEN to the south, or 50 ft up and 70 to the south? is the lower gate even 120 ft down the mountain? did they hike all the way up? As you can tell, still not really trusting the corporate CYA.) Tragic accident, IMO. 

post #7 of 24

Seems to me that if people spent as much time researching and learning what their personal responsibility is (ie the Alpine Responsbility Code) as they do researching and learning what others should be doing, 99.999% of these accidents would be avoided.

post #8 of 24
Quote:
“It is insufficient to close the run at the top, but not on the sides, if the closed area can be entered from the side,” Ferraro said.

 

That seems like pretty questionable logic to me.  If an upper gate is closed but the lower one isn't, then isn't the implication that all the terrain between the upper and lower gates is "closed"?

 

I'm not sure what more they could reasonably do other than putting out "Don't hike uphill onto closed terrain" warnings so there's no question about it being closed.  Even that might not have stopped the kids if they were thinking something like  "we're just gonna hike up a little bit, not all the way to the top..."

post #9 of 24
Tragic incident, yes. But we can be quite certain that the kids involved knew they were going into a closed area. They are locals--they probably know that mountain like their own back yard--and although they knew that they had not ducked a rope and may have thought to use that as a defense if they got caught by the authorities, they knew they were entering a closed area. And as locals, I am certain too that they had heard about the dangers in our snow pack at that time. They also knew that Prima Cornice is one of precious few areas of the front side of Vail that you could even pretend to call "steep" or challenging--I don't blame them for wanting to go in there. Unbroken, untracked powder--quite a temptation, especially in a season that saw so little of that!

They were not confused--they knew where they were going, and I am sure that it was no "accident" that found them in a closed area. That they could get caught by mother nature instead of the ski patrol is probably something that few 14 year-olds would have anticipated. A tragic accident resulted.

I suspect that all resorts will increase their awareness of how their signs and ropes might be perceived or confused, and take some measures to increase clarity if they can. Perhaps Vail will add new signage or something to the spot where these guys entered Prima Cornice, if they think it will help. But to require resorts to block every possible way of entering closed terrain from below would be unreasonable, in my opinion. It would be virtually impossible, in many cases. At some point, we have to let common sense play a role.

There are lessons for all of us here. Reminders that avalanches are, truly, dangerous and often unpredictable. Reminders that closures are not always there just to annoy us. Reminders to parents to teach responsibility, and to kids and teenagers that there can be real consequences to breaking--or bending--the rules. Like the parents, I hope some good comes of this. But I cannot see passing new legislation.

Best regards,
Bob
post #10 of 24

It was a crazy snow year with (perhaps) more risks than "normal".  Sad to see someone pay the ultimate price.  Still, these kids were fairly savvy, even for their young age. 

post #11 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Barnes View Post

They were not confused--they knew where they were going, and I am sure that it was no "accident" that found them in a closed area. That they could get caught by mother nature instead of the ski patrol is probably something that few 14 year-olds would have anticipated. 

That is exactly what I meant, but didn't say very well.

post #12 of 24

OK, will jump back into this simply to point out - again - the weirdly bloodless tone of the last few posts, this time about some freaking kids. From my vantage point, most of you seem - again - to be reflexively defending a resort. Why? At what point did your own narrative about skiing become so intertwined with the interests of the corporations that run resorts? Now I don't live in Colorado, and I don't know exactly what the code says about entering terrain from open gates on the side and blah blah blah. But I'm fascinated that even though this time the "bad guys" (also known as parents of the victim and another injured kid) just want to talk to Vail about changing its policies on signage, you're all stumbling all over yourselves to argue that a dead kid knew just the chance he was taking. 

 

Try think to think outside the box. Read some some social science, virtually any field will do, on how people make decisions about risk. Then find out about how teen's brains are still winnowing prefrontal cortex, still a decade away from processing information even like an average clueless adult. OK, then ask yourselves if a resort has any responsibilities, moral, legal, scientific, whatever, to acknowledge that many skiers, probably the large majority, do not process information and make decisions in a way that's congruent with current signs and postings. Especially if they're teens. Is the nature of the sport to shrug off how people actually act or think? Finally, ask yourselves how you would feel if this were your dead kid. Saying, for instance, this was "tragic...but we can quite certain the kids knew what they were doing..." when the writer has no way of actually knowing what happened is the most repellent kind of victim blaming. That it comes from "respected" members of this community doesn't magically excuse it. 

post #13 of 24

I do not pretend to know the specifics of the facts, or the knowledge or mindset of the boys involved in this tragedy, but it should be common sense that any area that is roped off and accessed only through control gates is done so for a reason.  To go through an open gate and then hike up to an area that you cannot otherwise get to through an open gate is going (supposedly knowingly) into a closed area.  This is a very sad situation that could have possibly been prevented with more or different signage, but there is a point where reason needs to be applied, which is apparently what was attempted in the FS investigation.   If I understand the description correctly the upper part of this area was clearly posted as "closed." An area that is obviously roped off and posted with closed signs that has an open gate at some point is not be an invitation to climb up and ski the entire area, otherwise it would have been opened higher up instead of being posted "closed."

 

I may be completely off base, but it appears these boys bent the rules a little in search of powder, which obviously turned out to be a fatal mistake in this situation.  It is truely sad that perhaps one simple sign would have prevented the tragedy.  I have often seen signs at ski areas saying "no hiking above this point," but I don't think I've ever seen one at a gate accessing roped terrain that was closed at a higher gate.  Common sense would seem to dictate "ski from here" not "this is open to anything you can climb to up under the higher closed gate."

 

Hopefully, the ski area is resisting formally agreeing to make sign changes because of a fear of admitting legal liability (which it appears they do not have, at least at this point) and will eventually take additional steps to clearly direct their patrons away from unsafe skiing. Undoubtedly we will be seeing a lot more "no hiking above this point" signs in the future.

post #14 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by beyond View Post

OK, will jump back into this simply to point out - again - the weirdly bloodless tone of the last few posts, this time about some freaking kids. From my vantage point, most of you seem - again - to be reflexively defending a resort. Why? At what point did your own narrative about skiing become so intertwined with the interests of the corporations that run resorts? Now I don't live in Colorado, and I don't know exactly what the code says about entering terrain from open gates on the side and blah blah blah. But I'm fascinated that even though this time the "bad guys" (also known as parents of the victim and another injured kid) just want to talk to Vail about changing its policies on signage, you're all stumbling all over yourselves to argue that a dead kid knew just the chance he was taking. 

 

Try think to think outside the box. Read some some social science, virtually any field will do, on how people make decisions about risk. Then find out about how teen's brains are still winnowing prefrontal cortex, still a decade away from processing information even like an average clueless adult. OK, then ask yourselves if a resort has any responsibilities, moral, legal, scientific, whatever, to acknowledge that many skiers, probably the large majority, do not process information and make decisions in a way that's congruent with current signs and postings. Especially if they're teens. Is the nature of the sport to shrug off how people actually act or think? Finally, ask yourselves how you would feel if this were your dead kid. Saying, for instance, this was "tragic...but we can quite certain the kids knew what they were doing..." when the writer has no way of actually knowing what happened is the most repellent kind of victim blaming. That it comes from "respected" members of this community doesn't magically excuse it. 

True, 

I completely agree with you.  

But if you take your own point  about human behavior, you know it is the nature of a discussion board that people want to just shout out their opinion about what they know and thought up in 2minutes and not necessarily reading the fine details of the discussion.

The debate over what happened and the condolences was already discussed I think when the original tragedy was reported, but people want to rehash it; even though this post is a bit of a twist really about the future policies.

 

At the same time, what is it the family wants?  To have Vail commit or sign and make a legal press release about it something right there on the spot?  That sort of "hostage" negotiation to commit to something only works in TV and in the movies.  This falls into the same trope of the deal expiring on such and such a time and somehow the good guys manipulating the clock to turn the tables.  Doesn't happen in reality.

 

They should be realistic that the kind of signage of random legal commitments rarely happens in real life with a corporation; but at the same time have some faith that given no downside and only upside the resort or specifically the ski patrol of that resort may make some changes to prevent similar bad things from happening.   Be realistic, nobody wants kids dying (or anyone else for that matter).  I would think the specific patrollers especially take it as a personal goal to keep everyone safe.

post #15 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by beyond View Post

OK, will jump back into this simply to point out - again - the weirdly bloodless tone of the last few posts, this time about some freaking kids. From my vantage point, most of you seem - again - to be reflexively defending a resort. Why? At what point did your own narrative about skiing become so intertwined with the interests of the corporations that run resorts? Now I don't live in Colorado, and I don't know exactly what the code says about entering terrain from open gates on the side and blah blah blah. But I'm fascinated that even though this time the "bad guys" (also known as parents of the victim and another injured kid) just want to talk to Vail about changing its policies on signage, you're all stumbling all over yourselves to argue that a dead kid knew just the chance he was taking. 

 

Try think to think outside the box. Read some some social science, virtually any field will do, on how people make decisions about risk. Then find out about how teen's brains are still winnowing prefrontal cortex, still a decade away from processing information even like an average clueless adult. OK, then ask yourselves if a resort has any responsibilities, moral, legal, scientific, whatever, to acknowledge that many skiers, probably the large majority, do not process information and make decisions in a way that's congruent with current signs and postings. Especially if they're teens. Is the nature of the sport to shrug off how people actually act or think? Finally, ask yourselves how you would feel if this were your dead kid. Saying, for instance, this was "tragic...but we can quite certain the kids knew what they were doing..." when the writer has no way of actually knowing what happened is the most repellent kind of victim blaming. That it comes from "respected" members of this community doesn't magically excuse it. 

 

Meh. It's "bloodless" because this was a post about mostly VR, not the kid. Things were different when it happened (although, yes, some were still overly judgmental, IMO) -- but my two teenage kids were skiing without me that day, and I was absolutely nauseated when it happened. I totally understand that kids don't have mature brains. I can't say I know exaxctly how I'd feel if it happened to one of my kids, but I'm sure it would be devastating. I feel for the family, very much. No one has posited that the family is the "bad guys," at all. (I do think it's a very common reaction, for loved ones to try to fix something in retrospect -- à la MADD -- and sometimes they are not really very objective about it. With good reason, of course, but grieving doesn't make you immune to being wrong.)

 

But none of that "feeling" has anything to do with much of the right and wrong and best signage practices and whatever else being discussed. I can promise you that the Vail patrollers "feel" really shitty about it, too; that's pretty much the worst thing that could happen on their mountain, an inbounds avy death (even on a closed run), especially to a local kid, one of them almost. 

 

I was very wait-and-see at first, since I had heard some different versions of the story early on, and I also know what it's like to traverse past a gate and maybe take a few steps up for an extra turn or two. But if it's true that they hiked the whole way back up the run, then they most likely knew what they were doing. As was said, why would you waste precious minutes on a powder day hiking up something  that you don't have to? That run opens from the top, it isn't hike-to terrain. 

post #16 of 24

We're not defending a big corporation, at least I'm not. We're defending our right to ski powder against grieving people who are looking to blame someone. If the Vail parents and the Winter Park family want to have the ski areas put up more warning signs--"don't climb above this gate" "powder snow can kill you" in big red letters as you board the lift--and waive the right to sue it might be a nice gesture from the ski areas that might help grieving families. What I have a problem with is litigation--and as best as I can recall the Vail parents aren't suing as of now--that will encourage ski areas to just close everything.  Skiing can be dangerous--how many times does it have to be said? Snow safety is not an exact science.  The kids at Vail could have been killed on an open run that they didn't have to climb to get to and it still wouldn't have been Vail's fault.  

As far as being cold blooded--feeling for grieving parents does not have to stop someone from pointing out that he thinks they're wrong.  The family chose to tell the newspaper that they thought Vail was at least partly at fault--they chose to start a public debate and in so doing gave up their right not to be disagreed with. I do feel for the families as much as I can feel for the families of people whose death I read about in the newspaper--be they American skiers or Afghan villagers. I don't see what that has to do with the issue of in bounds avalanche safety. 

post #17 of 24

The family is obviously devastated.  They are not suing, they are just trying to make it less likely that it will happen to anyone else, and possibly cause what they perceive as some good to come out of their personal tragedy.  I do not think there is much we can do about it here except to have a discussion of the signage issues.  There is nothing cold blooded about that.

post #18 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by beyond View Post

OK, will jump back into this simply to point out - again - the weirdly bloodless tone of the last few posts, this time about some freaking kids. From my vantage point, most of you seem - again - to be reflexively defending a resort. Why? At what point did your own narrative about skiing become so intertwined with the interests of the corporations that run resorts? Now I don't live in Colorado, and I don't know exactly what the code says about entering terrain from open gates on the side and blah blah blah. But I'm fascinated that even though this time the "bad guys" (also known as parents of the victim and another injured kid) just want to talk to Vail about changing its policies on signage, you're all stumbling all over yourselves to argue that a dead kid knew just the chance he was taking. 

 

Try think to think outside the box. Read some some social science, virtually any field will do, on how people make decisions about risk. Then find out about how teen's brains are still winnowing prefrontal cortex, still a decade away from processing information even like an average clueless adult. OK, then ask yourselves if a resort has any responsibilities, moral, legal, scientific, whatever, to acknowledge that many skiers, probably the large majority, do not process information and make decisions in a way that's congruent with current signs and postings. Especially if they're teens. Is the nature of the sport to shrug off how people actually act or think? Finally, ask yourselves how you would feel if this were your dead kid. Saying, for instance, this was "tragic...but we can quite certain the kids knew what they were doing..." when the writer has no way of actually knowing what happened is the most repellent kind of victim blaming. That it comes from "respected" members of this community doesn't magically excuse it. 

My intention was not to diminish the loss of life, nor diminish the grief of those close to the situation.  More to the point, I do understand the way an adolescent thinks and realize that their emotional radar is 4-5 times that of a mature adult, which means they had a level of excitement about the powder that many of us can't imagine, unless we can go back in time and be a teen  again.  

That being said, evaluations have to be made assuming that the skiers understand and know the terrain.  What would be a better solution to this situation?  Make a regulation that anyone under 18 be in the presence of a parent or guardian?  

I believe that these kids were familiar with the terrain, and I believe that they knew they were crossing a line when they traversed or hiked, or (whatever they did) under an area that was closed, but I do not believe that their adolescent minds (necessarily) could comprehend the real danger involved.  

Hopefully kids are instructed by a responsible person on how to handle situations like this, but some kids, even if taught well, will venture into danger. 

 

Condolences to the parents.  Its a tragedy no matter which way you look at it. 

post #19 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by beyond View Post

OK, will jump back into this simply to point out - again - the weirdly bloodless tone of the last few posts, this time about some freaking kids. From my vantage point, most of you seem - again - to be reflexively defending a resort. Why? At what point did your own narrative about skiing become so intertwined with the interests of the corporations that run resorts? Now I don't live in Colorado, and I don't know exactly what the code says about entering terrain from open gates on the side and blah blah blah....

 

Try think to think outside the box. Read some some social science, virtually any field will do, on how people make decisions about risk. Then find out about how teen's brains are still winnowing prefrontal cortex, still a decade away from processing information even like an average clueless adult. OK, then ask yourselves if a resort has any responsibilities, moral, legal, scientific, whatever, to acknowledge that many skiers, probably the large majority, do not process information and make decisions in a way that's congruent with current signs and postings. Especially if they're teens. Is the nature of the sport to shrug off how people actually act or think? Finally, ask yourselves how you would feel if this were your dead kid. Saying, for instance, this was "tragic...but we can quite certain the kids knew what they were doing..." when the writer has no way of actually knowing what happened is the most repellent kind of victim blaming. That it comes from "respected" members of this community doesn't magically excuse it. 

You have already shown in a prior related thread that you have very little knowledge of a lot of things related to skiing in particular, the history of lawsuits negatively affecting sport more generally, and also have a very pronounced bias towards suing resorts.  With your set of biases and attitudes, I would suggest you take up bowling, but be sure to also tell the bowling alley owner that you'd like to be able to sue him if you hurt your back while pursuing that sport.

 

From the clear facts of what happened in this case, it is in fact clear that these kids knew they were poaching a run.  They also undoubtedly knew that there was significant slide risk.

 

If teenagers, or middle-aged males or women who have purchased a sports car or motorcycle, go too fast and lose control, having voluntarily assumed the risk that comes with high speed, it's not a sign that cars or motorcycles need to be dramatically redesigned, it's a sign that someone showed poor judgment.  And I've got news for you: teens know that things like poaching runs, soloing rock, and driving too fast are risky.  As do the middle-aged males, and women, who poach. 

 

That's not victim blaming, it's just fact. 

 

Mouthing plaintiff's lawyer spew is in fact a repellent manipulation of the facts here, and itself hurtful to family members who do need to go through a grieving process. 

post #20 of 24

The parents have now filed suit against Vail.  Interestingly, they seem to state the reason for the suit is related to Vail's intrangigence in discussing what could be done in the future to manage such risks and their failure to produce documents related to the accident to the family or the Sheriff.

 

http://articles.outtherecolorado.com/articles/vail-1394-teen-avalanche.html

 

Mike

post #21 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by habacomike View Post

The parents have now filed suit against Vail.  Interestingly, they seem to state the reason for the suit is related to Vail's intrangigence in discussing what could be done in the future to manage such risks and their failure to produce documents related to the accident to the family or the Sheriff.

 

http://articles.outtherecolorado.com/articles/vail-1394-teen-avalanche.html

 

Mike

I'm willing to bet the reason Vail wouldn't talk to the parents is because Vail's lawyers wouldn't allow it.  If the parents had got their wish and Vail agreed to put up more signs or change their policies or do whatever it is the parents are asking for that could constitute an admission that could be used against them in court.  Vail was in a difficult spot here.  Ignore the parents and you look heartless.  Talk to them and it will be used against you in court.

post #22 of 24

The question I have always had was did this avalanche run into the open area? It seems a little illogical to me to open a run below an avalanche prone area. It seems that the bottom section should be closed in that case. Now if they hiked up then traversed to an area that would have been inaccessible form the lower gate then they are clearly at fault.

I dont buy the thinking that they didn't know what they were doing. They were 14 not 8. They were old enough to know better and I can almost guarantee the reason they hiked instead of ducking that rope was because of teenager loop hole logic. If they got caught by patrol they could then say well we didn't duck the rope.

 

Freshmen at the academy do the same thing. They do stuff they know for a fact is wrong then claim ignorance.

 

That being said I know lots of twenty year olds who would do the same thing. And you see tracks on the mountain all the time showing that people do it. This was a time when it turned out poorly and it was tragic. But I do think the kids were well aware of what they were doing    

post #23 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by beyond View Post

OK, will jump back into this simply to point out - again - the weirdly bloodless tone of the last few posts, this time about some freaking kids. From my vantage point, most of you seem - again - to be reflexively defending a resort. Why? At what point did your own narrative about skiing become so intertwined with the interests of the corporations that run resorts? Now I don't live in Colorado, and I don't know exactly what the code says about entering terrain from open gates on the side and blah blah blah. But I'm fascinated that even though this time the "bad guys" (also known as parents of the victim and another injured kid) just want to talk to Vail about changing its policies on signage, you're all stumbling all over yourselves to argue that a dead kid knew just the chance he was taking. 

 

Try think to think outside the box. Read some some social science, virtually any field will do, on how people make decisions about risk. Then find out about how teen's brains are still winnowing prefrontal cortex, still a decade away from processing information even like an average clueless adult. OK, then ask yourselves if a resort has any responsibilities, moral, legal, scientific, whatever, to acknowledge that many skiers, probably the large majority, do not process information and make decisions in a way that's congruent with current signs and postings. Especially if they're teens. Is the nature of the sport to shrug off how people actually act or think? Finally, ask yourselves how you would feel if this were your dead kid. Saying, for instance, this was "tragic...but we can quite certain the kids knew what they were doing..." when the writer has no way of actually knowing what happened is the most repellent kind of victim blaming. That it comes from "respected" members of this community doesn't magically excuse it. 

The thing is we are talking from a strictly legal point of view. It doesn't matter if spent three days crying about these kids or if I think they deserved what happened( I don't). There is no emotion in the interpretation of law. If there was then you know the teen mom who drowned here kid should be excused because she was going through a rough time and was really stressed out and because her brain wasn't fully developed she didn't understand what she was doing.

 

We aren't talking about nuanced reasoning here the run was clearly marked closed by traditional standards. The ids grew up here meaning they have been seeing that kind of thing for years. Hell its possible those kids have been skiing longer than me and I am 22. I would expect them to have the same type of understanding of signage as me if not better since they have seen it longer.

post #24 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by chraya View Post

I'm willing to bet the reason Vail wouldn't talk to the parents is because Vail's lawyers wouldn't allow it.  If the parents had got their wish and Vail agreed to put up more signs or change their policies or do whatever it is the parents are asking for that could constitute an admission that could be used against them in court.  Vail was in a difficult spot here.  Ignore the parents and you look heartless.  Talk to them and it will be used against you in court.

At least in the medical field there is a growing realization that proactive dealing with people or families of people who have suffered a bad outcome, regardless of whether there is any fault, often forestalls a lawsuit.  At least in some jurisdictions statements of regret, unless they are flat out admissions of fault, are specifically excluded from medical malpractice lawsuits. It's a catch 22--you feel for those who have suffered harm but you feel you cannot commiserate with them without it seeming like an admission of fault--but it's the failure to commiserate, not the original injury that provokes the lawsuit. Given that most states with ski resorts have a pretty ironclad protection from liability for dangers inherent in the sport it would seem that a less defensive approach might serve the ski areas well.  That said, it doesn't seem to me Vail could do more than it was already doing, so maybe the family wouldn't be happy regardless. You can put all the warning signs and closed signs up you want--my wife is still going to stand on the step on the ladder that says don't step here, and she's a lot older than 14.

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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › General Skiing Discussion › Report clears Vail Resorts in death of teen skier in avalanche