In my youth I did the exact same thing that killed that boy in the exact same spot numerous times. It's really, really tempting, and its not entirely clear the terrain is closed. It sounds like the kid didn't even make first tracks on the hike.
There is no "do not hike above" sign and no rope, and there really should be. Given the skier traffic in the area with one of the bussiest high speed quads in the world dumping right above, I also think Vail should have done control work there, and they lied when they told the CAIC they had done so for the report.
I'm not saying it's right, but people cut the rope all over Northwoods all the time at Vail, and have for decades. That poor kid was the first killed in a slide there, and he didn't even cut the rope. It was a really, really bad day. Conditions were horrible. That same day a husband and father of two was killed in a slide inbounds at Mary Jane, and he didn't cut the rope either.
Here's a good article that talks about the lawsuits resulting from both deaths that horrible day:
And, here's video I found of Prima Cornice from the upper gate so you can see what the terrain is like:
My personal take aways are a) to be aware of avalanche conditions even when skiing inbounds, b) never ski any areas that are not obviously open, and c) don't have blind faith that something is safe even if it is obviously open.
Edited by tball - 10/11/13 at 2:23pm