Lawsuit Against Vail Resorts For Negligence Begins 6 Years After An Avalanche Claimed The Life Of A 13 Year Old Boy

Greg Obernesser | | AvalancheAvalanche
extreme terrain, double black diamond
Roped off Prima Cornice gate entrance. Photo courtesy of Andy Cross (The Denver Post)

Vail Resorts is being sued for negligence in the death of then 13 year old skier Taft Conlin. On January 22, 2012, Taft Conlin and four other skiers entered the lower gate of Prima Cornice at Vail Resort. The upper gate to the run had been roped off due to avalanche danger.

According to the official Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) report, the five skiers entered the lower gate, Taft and two other skiers hiked about 120 feet up towards the top gate while the other two skiers in the group skied down. The R3D2 avalanche released on old faceted snow and instantly all three were caught. Two skiers were swept down hill but thankfully not buried by debris. Unfortunately, Taft was pushed downhill and came to rest against a large spruce tree partially buried-critical with both skis and one arm above the surface.

snow, slide, debris
Looking down at the soft slab avalanche on Prima Cornice. Photo courtesy of the CAIC

The terrain features on Prima Cornice makes it one Vail’s gnarliest runs. Prima Cornice is one of Vail’s steepest runs with pitches in spots of 46 degrees. The terrain is not only very steep, but gladed with many cliffs. 

Vail, Colorado, slide
Another view of the Prima Cornice avalanche. Photo courtesy of the CAIC

What is being disputed in court? Vail Resorts state that Taft hiked up into a “closed” section of the run and is therefore negligent because of his decision to not obey mountain safety. The parents (Dr. Louise Ingalls & Dr. Steve Conlin) are arguing that because the lower gate was open the avalanche prone area around the upper gate was not properly secured making Vail Resorts negligible. According to the Vail Daily, the jury will have to decide if Vail Resorts complied with the Colorado Skier Safety Act. If Vail Resorts did not, did it result in Taft’s death? If it did, how much compensation should the family receive? The trial is set to begin on June 11th, 2018.

Louise Ingalls in Taft’s empty room. Photo courtesy of Andy Cross (The Denver Post)

Want to play judge and jury? Before you do, read the revised Colorado Ski and Safety Act (2006) and decide for yourself.

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