Cole Comstock, 34, of California, was killed by an avalanche on January 17, 2020, on an Alpine Meadows ski run around 10:16 in the morning. His close friend, Kaley Bloom, was also swept by the avalanche and received serious injuries but somehow survived. Comstock was an experienced skier who skied both in-bound and out-bound areas of the resort depending on conditions. Kaley Bloom and Comstock’s widow have both filed separate lawsuits against the resort claiming they negligently rushed to open the slopes for one of the season’s busiest holiday weekends. No one else was injured by the slide.
Raymond’s lawsuit alleged the resort is to blame for her husband’s death, along with accusations of negligence, gross negligence, and breach of contract. The day before the slide, the resort was closed for heavy snow (11-22in.) and high winds that significantly increased avalanche risks. The National Weather Service reported wind gusts as high as 116mph. at the top of Alpine Meadows the night before his death.
Bloom’s lawsuit, filed on February 2nd, claims the “premature opening was in response to public and economic pressure to open that particular lift and callous disregard for the dangerous combinations of conditions”. Avalanche mitigation, such as air cannons and explosive detonations, were performed in that specific area prior to the resort opening. A resort spokeswoman, Alex Spychalsky, has commented stating it was a “devastating day for our team at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, and we continue to share our deepest sympathies with the family and friends of those affected.”
Caitlin Raymond’s lawsuit claims they should not have opened the run under the circumstances, and the resort increased the risks beyond those normally assumed by skiers. Skiers who buy resort passes are required to sign release forms warning participation in winter activities “can be dangerous and involves the risk of injury or death. Bloom and Cole believed they were skiing a run that was safe because mitigation efforts had been performed earlier in the day. Raymond stated having the resort closed the day before “created a false and reckless illusion of safety.” The lawsuit also notes how most ski fatalities occur outside of ski resort boundaries and that in-bound deaths are very rare.
Caitlin Raymond was skiing on the other side of the mountain when she received the news from her friends that there had been an avalanche. She went to wait for her husband by a chairlift when she saw ski patrol pulling a stretcher with a body covered in blood and snow. She recognized by the ski boots that it was her husband. Ski patrol performed CPR for 45 minutes while Raymond watched helplessly. Alpine Meadows deadliest avalanche occurred in March of 1982 when 7 people were killed by an avalanche.