Vail’s disastrous 2021-22 season at Stevens Pass has led to a lawsuit against the ski resort conglomerate. HeraldNet reports Miroslava “Mirka” Lewis, a former Stevens Pass employee, is suing Vail Resorts for the damages caused by her falling off a chairlift during the 2021-22 season. In addition, she is suing a Vail Resorts entity that provided training for its employees, along with two unnamed third parties that were responsible for chairlift worker training and maintenance.

Here’s the context behind the lawsuit: Mirka’s daughter was a part of the Stevens Pass Alpine Club. In January 2022, the ski resort was so understaffed that they requested that the racer’s parents would watch the lifts. Miroslava Lewis agreed, and after one day of training, she was able to run the lift.  She worked as a liftie for a couple of weeks before the incident occurred, doing five-hour shifts for Stevens Pass.

Image Credit: Madison Olling

After she completed her shift on January 30th, 2022, she prepared to board the chairlift to get back to the base area. She was trying to board a Riblet chairlift from the 1960s, which is more difficult to get on compared to a detachable chairlift. She asked the lift operator to fully stop the lift, but the employee did not do that. Mirka got on the chairlift but was not fully seated due to the speed it was running at. As the lift began to descend down the mountain, she was thrown off the chairlift. She fell thirty feet and hit a tree.

She suffered severe injuries, including head trauma, damage to one of her eyes, a collapsed lung, four fractured vertebrae, and other ailments. According to the Seattle Times, the lawsuit said that Mirka needed to relearn how to speak, write, and walk due to the severity of the injuries.

Mirka is blaming the accident on the old chairlift. The lawsuit alleges that Vail Resorts knew that the chairlift on which the incident occurred was “old, outdated, unsafe, and failed to meet industry standards.” The lawsuit states that a functioning safety net or a restraint bar would’ve prevented the accident. The lawsuit alleges that the elevated offload ramp and down-load ramp structure were dangerous, resulting in her severe injuries

Bob Zimmerman of Saltz Mongeluzzi and Bendesky P.C. described the effects of the incident on Mirka’s life in an email to HeraldNet:

“Mirka can no longer work as an accountant and will need a lifetime of care as a result of Vail’s inaction.”

This was one of the many reasons why the 2021-22 season was a disaster for Stevens Pass. For the first couple of months, the Washington ski resort was not fully staffed, leading to fewer open lifts and terrain in spite of deep snowfall. The situation became so hostile that a petition with over 46,000 signatures aimed to hold Vail Resorts accountable for the mismanagement of Stevens Pass, and hundreds of consumer complaints were filed with the Office of the Attorney General in Washington State.

Tom Fortune was brought in to right the ship in January 2022, which helped Stevens Pass to open more terrain and improve their transparency.  Ellen Galbraith became General Manager in June of last year and frequently posts detailed letters to the community on the latest updates at the ski resort. While there have been bumps along the way,  the Vail property has begun to improve its relationship with the local community. Vail Resorts has cleaned up its operational issues from that season, but it still shows that its mistakes came at a cost.

One question I do have though is why didn’t she ski or board down the slope? Some lifties prefer to not bring their skis and boards when they work, but I was someone who enjoyed getting some brief turns in when I was a lift operator.

Due to it being pending litigation, Stevens Pass and Vail Resorts have yet to release a public comment on the case.

Image Credits: Stevens Pass, Madison Olling

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