At 1pm on January 22nd, 2012, three skiers were caught in an in-bounds avalanche in the Prima Cornice zone at Vail ski resort in Colorado. Two of the skiers survived while a 13 year old boy was killed by the avalanche. Since this accident, Scott Fitzwilliams (forest supervisor of White River National Forest) and his staff have been investigating the incident looking to determine if there was any negligence on the part of Vail ski resort. Forest Service Clears Vail in 13-Year-Old Boy’s In-Bounds Avalanche Death | Families Hugely Disappointed | Unofficial Networks

Forest Service Clears Vail in 13-Year-Old Boy’s In-Bounds Avalanche Death | Families Hugely Disappointed

Forest Service Clears Vail in 13-Year-Old Boy’s In-Bounds Avalanche Death | Families Hugely Disappointed

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Forest Service Clears Vail in 13-Year-Old Boy’s In-Bounds Avalanche Death | Families Hugely Disappointed

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Vail avalanche details

At 1pm on January 22nd, 2012, three skiers were caught in an in-bounds avalanche in the Prima Cornice zone at Vail ski resort in Colorado.  Two of the skiers survived while a 13 year old boy was killed by the avalanche.

Since this accident, Scott Fitzwilliams (forest supervisor of White River National Forest) and his staff have been investigating the incident looking to determine if there was any negligence on the part of  Vail ski resort.  

The White River National Forest found no negligence in this death and have decided not to change anything in Vail’s procedural duties nor its special use permit:

“My staff and I carefully evaluated the current operation of the resort in the context of this incident. Based on my review of the information cited in this report, extensive discussion withmy staff, and review of Vail Resorts procedures, I find no indication of noncompliance with thespecial use authorization, the operating plan, or any related operational procedures. I find that pertinent site specific decisions and subsequent actions were made consistent with existing resortoperating procedures.” – Scott Fitzwilliams, Forest Supervisor of White River National Forest

“Consistent with FSM [forest service manual] policy, I further considered whether alternative or additive requirements should be placed within the permit, the operating plan, or any related operational procedures.  Specifically, I considered whether additional signage, rope barriers or gate closures should be added to the permit or operating plan.”  – Scott Fitzwilliams

“I have decided not add or amend the special use authorization, operation plan, or operation procedures.” – Scott Fitzwilliams

exact location of Prima Cornice avy

This greatly disappointed the families of the boys involved in the avalanche:

 “I don’t believe the boys were doing anything wrong. They are expert skiers and were following all the rules of the skier responsibility code. The Colorado Ski Safety Act does not prohibit skiers from sidestepping up or traversing across a slope. The boys did not duck arope or knowingly ski into the closed terrain. They accessed the run through an open gate.” – attorney Kristi Ferraro, mother of one of the boys injured in the avalanche

“It is insufficient to close the run at the top, but not on the sides, if the closed area can be entered from the sides.” – Kristi Ferraro

“We begged Vail Resorts in the first meeting and two subsequent meetings to change their roping and/or signage policies, butthey have steadfastly refused to commit to any changes.” – Louise Ingalls, mother of deceased boy

“I am confounded and saddened that inthe wake of my son’s death in an avalanche of this scale on the front side of Vail Mountain, that both entities [Vail and the USFS] are unwilling to make any recommendations or changes.  We don’t want any other family to endure the heartbreak of losing a loved one for want of a sign or rope.” – Louise Ingalls

AVALANCHE INCIDENT DETAILS:

– Upper Prima Cornice area and gate were closed

– Lower Prima Cornice area and gate were open

– The 3 skiers involved in the accident hiked entered thru the Lower Prima Cornice gate and sidestepped 120 linear feet uphill and then traversed deeper into the Prima Cornice zone

– The 3 skier’s exact location at the start of the avalanche isn’t known

– One skier was swept off a small cliff and came to rest on top of the avalanche debris

– Another skier was pushed into a tree and was able to grab the tree and discontinue his downhill trajectory

– The skier who died was taken thru a spruce forest and came to rest against a tree with only his skis and one arm above the surface of the snow

– Eagle Country Coroner stated that the deceased skier died of blunt force trauma

Full Report from Scott Fitzwilliams:

Vail Mountain Avalanche Fatality Review

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