The 3 week civil lawsuit regarding 13 years old Taft Conlin’s Jan. 22, 2012 accidental death on Vail Mountain’s Prima Cornice run is underway and the entire ski resort industry is paying attention.

Taft Conlin died in an inbounds avalanche in closed terrain and the crux of the wrongful death lawsuit is Vail Resorts is responsible because they failed to properly restrict access to the terrain back in 2012.

Vail Daily reports Taft Conlin hiked the equivalent of football field uphill to access the terrain that where he died after entering an open gate. The way Vail Ski Patrol manages terrain, if you enter a gate, then you can ski any terrain you can get to by going downhill, following gravity (so uphill hiking to access additional terrain is prohibited).  Vail Resorts will argue this is cut and dry…if you can access an area with gravity alone, then it’s open. If you cannot, then it’s not. 

Taft Conlin’s family’s lawyers will argue that this type of mini-hike to access terrain not accessible by gravity alone happens all the time and ski patrol knew about it and tacitly allowed it by not cracking down on the activity:

“They knew it was happening, and they did nothing about it.Vail Resorts broke the law.” -Taft’s parents Attorney Jim Heckbert

Vail Resorts will argue that the upper part of Prima Cornice was closed and skiers were reasonably kept out of avalanche danger in the area because in the words of Vail’s defense“Skiing is a downhill sport”.

They will also argue that ski patrol “Wanted to leave the lower gate open so skiers could ski the lower portion of Prima Cornice” and “Taft Conlin … climbed up the equivalent of a 10-story building.”

The civil trial continues for up to three weeks before District Court Judge Fred Gannett. We will update as details about the trail come in. 

Images From Colorado Avalanche Information Center & wikipedia

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