Update: Vail Mountain Inbounds Avalanche Case

Greg Obernesser | | AvalancheAvalanche
inbounds avalanche
Dr. Louise Ingalls looks over photographs of her son, Taft Conlin, in Taft’s room at her home in Eagle. Credit: Vail Daily

The court case regarding the inbounds avalanche at Vail Mountain that claimed the life of 13-year-old Taft Conlin is entering the final days. The hotly debated case is centered around liability and who’s actions are to blame. Taft and friends entered a lower gate and hiked up on a run known as “Prima Cornice” and trigged an avalanche. Vail Resorts is claiming that the upper gate was closed and is therefore not liable. The Civil Trial case is set to have closing arguments on June 20th.

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

Jurors will have the difficulty of sifting through some tough testimony to find the truth. According to the Vail Daily, a big mountain athlete of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail (SSCV) testified that he and friends would hike from the lower gate to the upper area all the time. They would also do this with a SSCV coach. Former SSCV Director, Aldo Radamus, voluntarily testified he “unaware” the coach had done that and was “disappointed”.

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

Other testimony gave various perspectives and blurred the negligence line even more. One of Taft’s friend’s, in a video deposition, said to his understanding that if the lower gate was open the whole area was open and skiers could hike if they pleased. While Charles Tolton, Vail Resorts former director of risk management, testified that the ski run was closed correctly.

gate, inbounds avalanche
The top entrance to the “Prima Cornice” run at Vail Mountain. Credit: Vail Daily

About the case; 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. While Charles Tolton, Vail Resorts former director of risk management, testified that he thinks Vail Resorts had closed the run properly.

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.


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