A district court judge has refused to dismiss a wrongful death lawsuit against Vail Resorts, which alleges that the ski company is responsible for the death of a 13-year-old avalanche victim.
In January 2012, the upper section of a ski run called Prima Cornice was closed for “safety reasons” due to poor snow conditions. The upper gate was closed, but a teenager skied down to an open corridor between the trees and entered through a lower gate.
The young boy and at least two friends then sidestepped up about 100 feet into what Vail says was a closed area. After the avalanche, the two teens told the lift operator that they could not find their friend.
Vail ski patrol quickly located the teen, who had suffered severe blunt force trauma and chest injuries. Emergency responders performed CPR all the way to Vail Valley Medical Center, but he was pronounced dead on arrival.
When the teen’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit, Vail Resorts sought to have it dismissed, claiming that avalanches are one of the “inherent” dangers of skiing and snowboarding. On those grounds, the company alleges that Colorado’s Skier Safety Act grants them immunity from legal action regarding the boy’s death.
The ski company acknowledges that the lower gate was open, but argues that the teen “knew or reasonably should have known that the slope uphill from the gate was closed.” By entering the restricted area, the young man took responsibility for his own injuries.
The teen skier’s parents claim that Vail Resorts violated the Colorado Ski Safety Act when they failed to close both gates on the run, despite clear avalanche dangers. According to the lawsuit, “all skiers know you can go 180 degrees [from the gate] so long as there isn’t a sign or rope closure telling you not to.”
The case has been postponed until a trial date can be scheduled.
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