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  1. #1
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    Inbound Critical Slide @ Vail ~information wanted

    I thought this was very interesting for several reasons:

    -I have not been to Vail yet this season and have not seen first hand what is open/closed and current conditions.

    -I can't ever remember shots like Prima Cornice being closed while back bowls were being opened.

    -This is some of if not the steepest terrain on the mountain as well as being E-NE facing which allows it to collect some of the deepest snow on the mountain as well protecting those persistent weaknesses.

    It is now clear why this run was roped off but it is so easy to access and view the goods...When I was a young man in ski club skiing with friends at a young age who didn't know the consequences or dangers the mountain held I regularly did stupid stuff, ducked ropes, got lost etc. This kind of steep, powder holding, easily accessible shot is soooo easy to get lured into.

    What kind of control was done on this slope prior to opening the mountain? Did they bomb this slope and were unable to get it to run? Or by chance they did they not bomb it in hopes that this frontside/popular run would consolidate and settle leaving some pack to ski whereas blowing it would bring it to the ground?

    I was in the BC in the area around this time anything over 35 degrees on this aspect you could get to move by swearing at.

    My deep thought is that this could have been prevented though I hate to suggest a mistake was made by the ski patrol I know they bust their asses all season to keep our mountains safe. I just have been thinking about this a lot and would love some more enlightenment on the situation.

    My thoughts to the family, friends, and community of the young man.

  2. #2
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    Since no one has answered your questions, I'll ask one of you.

    Are you a Lawyer?
    "True love is much easier to find with a helicopter"

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by dorikin69 View Post
    I thought this was very interesting for several reasons:

    -I have not been to Vail yet this season and have not seen first hand what is open/closed and current conditions.

    -I can't ever remember shots like Prima Cornice being closed while back bowls were being opened.

    -This is some of if not the steepest terrain on the mountain as well as being E-NE facing which allows it to collect some of the deepest snow on the mountain as well protecting those persistent weaknesses.

    It is now clear why this run was roped off but it is so easy to access and view the goods...When I was a young man in ski club skiing with friends at a young age who didn't know the consequences or dangers the mountain held I regularly did stupid stuff, ducked ropes, got lost etc. This kind of steep, powder holding, easily accessible shot is soooo easy to get lured into.

    What kind of control was done on this slope prior to opening the mountain? Did they bomb this slope and were unable to get it to run? Or by chance they did they not bomb it in hopes that this frontside/popular run would consolidate and settle leaving some pack to ski whereas blowing it would bring it to the ground?

    I was in the BC in the area around this time anything over 35 degrees on this aspect you could get to move by swearing at.

    My deep thought is that this could have been prevented though I hate to suggest a mistake was made by the ski patrol I know they bust their asses all season to keep our mountains safe. I just have been thinking about this a lot and would love some more enlightenment on the situation.

    My thoughts to the family, friends, and community of the young man.
    Didn't think of the lawsuit angle, interesting.

  4. #4
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    There are really a couple of thought processes here.

    1. If you throw charges on it and rip it out, it will only load up again and again creating an ongoing mitigation hazard. Leaving it to settle on its own and possibly bridge and stabalize over time could make this safer during the course of the season.

    2. Leaving to settle, while closing the area, may create a hazard for those not following the rules (Case in point here). This is a hindsight issue that I am sure the Vail patrol would have changed if they knew the outcome.

    3. Throwing charges on it may not release a slide and could potentialy create post control release issues. This is probably not the case in this instance because of the hair trigger nature of the snowpack at that moment. Remember, most patrols policy is to throw a charge, and then ski cut. This area may put patrollers at high risk for ski cutting. I am not familiar with the area so I will not comment.

    These are just some of the thought processes patrols go through when deciding upon the mitigation tactics. I am sure there are additional factors that come into play. In hindsight, knowing the results, I am sure the Vail would have preferred to throw charges on this and mitigate the hazard even if it meant throwing charges all year long on this area because of reloading after reloading of the slope on shitty snow.

  5. #5
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    Re-reading that I could see how I might have come across as a lawyer...i wish. I'd be all over this!

    I was just curious because not much info has really surfaced on this incident that I can find.

    From what I can remember the area (which begins with what has usually formed into a cornice) is rigged with lines so what looks like above surface charges can be used.

    I wouldn't want to ski cut it in questionable conditions...it is very steep funneling over rocks and sparse trees and then flattens out considerably into thicker trees. If caught you would probably be buried and/or strained through the trees. Not fun.

    Simple curiosity and arm-chair quarterbacking. The mountains are so alive it can be hard enough to decide whether or not you are going to ski a questionable slope yourself, but making that judgement for others to open a run or not...i'm glad I don't have to make that decision. And then people end up cutting ropes anyways...I guess it is bound to happen eventually.

  6. #6
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    And thanks for the reply surface hoar. I think that was really the root of my inquiry...what kind of different processes and/or systems avalanche professionals use to decide whether or not to open terrain.

  7. #7
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    From CAIC prelim report:

    "PRELIMINARY: Three skiers were caught in an avalanche. One was partially buried-critical and killed. The avalanche was SS-AS-R3D2-O, a soft slab, triggered by skiers, medium sized relative to the path, large enough to bury and kill a person, and ran on old snow. The crown averaged about 18 inches deep, and the avalanche was about 300 feet wide and ran 400 vertical feet. The avalanche started on a northeast aspect around 10,800 feet and was about 46 degrees in steepness. The avalanche occurred within the boundary of an operating ski area in terrain the resort considered closed."

    That's all I can find so far.

  8. #8
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    Reading articles there is a lot of conflicting info. Definitely an investigation going down against Vail Resorts so I imagine it might be along while till we know what really happened.

    USDA has ordered some kind of report/investigation of the Winter Park and Vail inbound slides...

    The young man was wearing a helmet cam which was apparently buried, don't know if it has been recovered and not even sure if I would want to watch it.

    We will wait and find out.

  9. #9
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    This is fucking bullshit. Nothing but the prelim report is available. Enough time has passed that info should be available unless vail is getting ready to get ther ass raped

    .

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by dorikin69 View Post
    that info should be available unless vail is getting ready to get ther ass raped.
    I am going to step out on a limb and say that is not going to happen. There was a similar accident (inbounds and closed) in Snowmass a few years ago and nothing came of it. I predict a similar outcome with the vail accident.

  11. #11
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    Check this out: http://opensnow.com/forum#/discussion/72/vail-avalanche

    "I just wanted to take advantage of this forum to clarify some inaccurate reporting on the part of the front range press regarding the inbounds avalanche at Vail on Sunday. The five boys skiing together were all expert skiers, the father of one of the boys is the assistant director for vail ski patrol, the boys entered through the lower gate on Prima Cornice which was open and they traversed right following other tracts before they turned down into the run. A large avalanche with a 18" crown 300' wide slid 400 feet down the slope, three of the boys were caught, two dug themselfs out and one was killed when he hit a tree. It is very important to the boys and their families that people do not think they were breaking rules and poaching a closed area. Thank you for your support and for helping spread the word. Steve Conlin"

  12. #12
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    . Still no report on CAIC. I was informed no information will be made available.

  13. #13
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    Recommended book read "Powder Burn" to understand Vail and the corporate machine.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by thepowderhound View Post
    Check this out: http://opensnow.com/forum#/discussion/72/vail-avalanche

    "I just wanted to take advantage of this forum to clarify some inaccurate reporting on the part of the front range press regarding the inbounds avalanche at Vail on Sunday. The five boys skiing together were all expert skiers, the father of one of the boys is the assistant director for vail ski patrol, the boys entered through the lower gate on Prima Cornice which was open and they traversed right following other tracts before they turned down into the run. A large avalanche with a 18" crown 300' wide slid 400 feet down the slope, three of the boys were caught, two dug themselfs out and one was killed when he hit a tree. It is very important to the boys and their families that people do not think they were breaking rules and poaching a closed area. Thank you for your support and for helping spread the word. Steve Conlin"
    And they were on lap 5 after hiking up to the run with the rope across it when it went.

  15. #15
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    Updates?

    Sent from my HTC One X using TGR Forums

  16. #16
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    http://www.denverpost.com/breakingne...lled-avalanche

    https://avalanche.state.co.us/acc/ac...=432&accfm=inv

    Lots of different stories here. Sad story but lots of the claims the mom is making contradict the official reports. The boys "cut a rope" by traversing into a closed area. Even though they entered through an open gate, hiking or traversing uphill is still poaching a closed area. Closures run down the fall line whether there is a rope or not
    Quote Originally Posted by The SnowShow View Post
    Keystone is the new Snowbird

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bronic View Post
    http://www.denverpost.com/breakingne...lled-avalanche

    https://avalanche.state.co.us/acc/ac...=432&accfm=inv

    Lots of different stories here. Sad story but lots of the claims the mom is making contradict the official reports. The boys "cut a rope" by traversing into a closed area. Even though they entered through an open gate, hiking or traversing uphill is still poaching a closed area. Closures run down the fall line whether there is a rope or not
    Yep, has to be hard on loved ones, but it's not anyone's fault, but the victim's.



    Greave for them, but don't fuck it up for the rest of us.

  18. #18
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    Really good letter to the editor at Vail Daily

    http://www.vaildaily.com/article/201...ntprofile=1065

    I read with dismay that District Judge Patrick Murphy handed out a ruling supporting attorney Jim Heckbert, a lawyer who has built a career on high-profile lawsuits against the ski industry. Murphy ruled that slides are not an inherent risk of skiing, and Heckbert was given permission to proceed in a lawsuit relating to the inbounds avalanche on closed terrain in Vail that killed a local teen last year.

    The tragedy inherent in the loss of a young teenager's life and the grief of his friends and family aside, this ruling has two significantly negative implications for all of us who ski and recreate in the mountains.

    First, it illogically invalidates some universally standard practices of ski areas across the country for controlling access to terrain.

    Second, it continues to encourage skiers to operate under the blissfully false assumption that they will never face the risk of avalanches inbounds, and therefore don't need to ski with the attendant caution and respect for terrain that such a sobering notion might require.

    On the issue of ropelines: While parties will no doubt continue to dispute the details of the slide on Prima Cornice in court, the fact remains that the skiers hiked uphill into an avalanche closure. Having multiple gates to different portions of terrain is standard industry practice for controlling access to runs like Prima Cornice. It is logistically neither possible nor desirable to have patrol running miles of ropeline through gladed runs and other avalanche terrain on every mountain in the country.

    Regardless that no “hard” boundary exists between the skier's-left side of the run and the avy-prone skier's-right area, anyone who goes in there can easily see that the left-hand ramp from the lower gate is significantly less steep, that's why it is possible to open the lower gate without control work.

    During the time I worked as a patroller on Lone Peak in Montana, we regularly had upper gates closed and lower gates open as way of controlling skier access until we were felt more confident about avalanche conditions in upper paths. Note that I said “felt more confident.” Avalanche risk is never zero, and the ski patrol will never claim as such.

    Take a look at any other hill and you will see avalanche terrain controlled in the same manner. Numerous stacked gate entrances are used at Breckenridge as you traverse from the T-bar into the terrain on and below Peak 7.

    How would Crested Butte have any hope of controlling access to the Headwall and Outer Limits area without this arrangement?

    At Beaver Creek, multiple gates allow access into Stone Creek in the same way as the upper and lower Prima Cornice gates. It is perfectly reasonable to open the lower gates to allow skier access into those runs with the expectation that hiking uphill is not allowed. Short of closing any terrain that even smells like it might be avy terrain, which none of us wants, this is simply the best option resorts have to operate.

    On the second issue: Judge Murphy's ruling that avalanches are impossible inbounds (he determined they are not a legally defined inherent risk of skiing) may make you feel better about skiing expert terrain with impunity , but the mountains may not have gotten the message.

    He might as well have ruled that it is illegal for cars to wreck on the road. Anyone who cares to pay attention should be able to recall numerous inbounds slides in recent years that beg to differ with Messrs Heckbert and Murphy.

    Inbounds slides and deaths have happened at Jackson Hole (Toilet Bowl area), Squaw Valley (Paulson's Gully), Snowbird (Baldy Chutes), A-Basin (Palavicinni area), Snowmass (Hanging Valley), Winter Park (another one that Heckbert is suing over), and The Canyons (Red Pine Chutes).

    While I lived in Big Sky, post-control releases occurred in Liberty Bowl and off of Challenger lift nearly every year. It happens. Ski patrol did their job correctly and well. It still happens. If you choose to ski steep terrain, you have to accept it.

    Based on this case and others, it is not clear that most skiers at Vail even understand that favorite inbounds runs are definitive avalanche terrain. Look Ma/Challenge, Genghis Khan, Lovers Leap, N/S Rim, Snag Park, Milt's, Rasputin's, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Ripsaw, Cataract, Peregrine, everything in Stone Creek — these runs easily tip the scales at 35 degrees or steeper and are avalanche terrain.

    All of them have the potential to slide one day with you on them, after the resort opens, after control work. Patrol does an incredible and professional job mitigating the risk.

    That still doesn't make it zero, and that doesn't leave you off the hook for being aware of the risk and making a conscious choice to ski the run.

    Despite Heckbert's assertion and Murphy's court ruling, it is physically impossible to hit every pocket of avy danger on every run, every time it snows, every time the snowpack metamorphoses during the season. Use at your own risk.

    Vail is the largest resort in the United States. If people believe that 80-ish ski patrollers a day can absolutely sniff out every lurking pocket of avalanche danger in 5,300 acres, including the numerous steep glades and off-map runs that we all regularly ski, they are kidding themselves.

    These men and women already do the best job mitigating avy risk that is possible.

    Unfortunately, complete elimination is an impossible task.

    Attorney Jim Heckbert's statement that “All of us would ski with beacons and shovels if avalanche is an inherent risk, especially when skiing with children” is very telling of his own and the general public's happy willingness disregard avy risk inbounds.

    If you move the scene a few states north to Jackson Hole, Big Sky or Bridger Bowl, you will witness a local skiing population that does precisely what Heckbert mocks.

    Large numbers of skiers at those resorts ski inbounds with exactly that equipment, know how to use it, and teach their children how to use it or else put some limits on where their children ski.

    If these teens had been skiing with an adult, is it as likely that hiking uphill access terrain behind a closed upper gate would have occurred? Probably not. Although based on the adults around here, that's entirely supposition. Vail Mountain is not a 5,300-acre babysitter where parents get to drop the kids off and pretend nothing bad can ever happen. Nor is Beaver Creek. Nor is anywhere else, for that matter.

    While Heckbert may have succeeded in convincing Judge Murphy of his interpretation of the letter of the law, he has unfortunately also succeeded in trashing the spirit of the law. The Skier Safety Act is clearly about personal responsibility for one's own actions and institutional acknowledgement that not all risk is fully controllable.

    If this incident eventually succeeds with a useful community discourse and produces a population that is aware of inbounds avy risk, it will certainly be a positive outcome. If the only consequences are miles of additional rope lines and the scapegoating of a hard-working ski patrol to win another lawsuit against a deep-pocket resort corporation, I wouldn't say we should all feel good. Vail patrol may be many things, but they are not negligent.

    When that inherently uncontrollable bit pops up and rears its ugly head, it doesn't feel that great to be targeted by litigation-happy attorneys and a general public unwilling to admit a big mountain might not always and everywhere be safe.

    Even if the upper gate had been opened and some bombs were thrown, that doesn't mean this tragic accident would have been impossible. Fully “controlled” slopes will still slide from time-to-time on real-world mountains, apparently just not in Colorado's courts.

    Bill Hoblitzell

    Minturn

  19. #19
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    Mar 2013
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    ^ Wow, now that is what I call a Letter to the Editor! I have an urge to buy its author a beer at Minturn Saloon. Any update to this case? Last I read was in the Vail Daily in early January:

    What's next?

    The ski company has 35 days to turn over all the documents and information related to Conlin's death.

    Depositions will follow from Vail Resorts' ski patrollers, the company's management and others associated with the incident. Taft's parents and the friends he was skiing with can expect to be required to tell their stories, Heckbert said.

    No trial date has been set. If the case does go to trial, a jury will hear it. There has been no talk of a settlement, Heckbert said.

    Conlin's parents are both local veterinarians and the lawsuit is not about money, Heckbert said. Colorado law caps wrongful death awards at $250,000 for children, Heckbert said.

    http://www.vaildaily.com/article/201...NEWS/130109898

    It's harsh to read, "Taft Conlin was negligent and such negligence was either the sole, or a contributing cause," Vail Resorts said in its response. But I can understand VR has to play its legal hand in a carefully constructed manner.

    I dropped into Upper Prima Cornice on Sunday and couldn't help thinking about Taft. Just super, super sad. And yet Judge Murphy's ruling that an inbounds slide is not one of skiing's inherent risks listed in the CSSA is questionable at best. It's a dangerous legal path. Tragic accidents happen on big mountains. Hopefully VR learns from the incident & adapts its policies & procedures accordingly, even without a directive from the USFS or any public admittance of mistakes made that morning (i.e. improved signage, additional ropes, closing the lower gate, whatever). The bottom line is that personal responsibility should be paramount, as we don't want resort terrain to end up like a police state. Access is a good thing, coupled with knowledge & acceptance of the "inherent risks".

  20. #20
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    Mar 2013
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    In the ever-changing legal chess game that is this case, Vail Resorts has publicly announced a change in policy regarding Prima Cornice:

    http://www.vaildaily.com/article/201...NEWS/130319923

    Interesting that they waited so long to announce something they've been doing all season:

    “The two gates have been operated in this way since the beginning of this ski season."

    I suppose ultimately any change in policy & procedures to increase visitor safety is a good thing, but it smacks me as reactionary. Plus, short of downhill ropes, how do you truly prevent an incident of this nature from happening in other avy-prone spots inbounds? For example, I know Lover's Leap in Pete's Bowl has slid while open. Earlier this season when Steep & Deep/Skree Field were still closed, I saw plenty of skiers & riders traversing over there from Lover's to catch fresh lines.

  21. #21
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    Some of those quotes from Heckbert are hard to read
    Quote Originally Posted by The SnowShow View Post
    Keystone is the new Snowbird

  22. #22
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    The ski law billboards are even harder to read. Stomach churning. Personal responsibility say what?

  23. #23
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    So now they'll just leave Prima Cornice closed most of the time. If the law suit in Winter Park is successful, they'll just close the trees.

    I'm sure Chalat and Heckbert were instrumental in getting the Denver Post to write a series on evil ski resorts shirking their liability.

    http://www.denverpost.com/investigat...aises-concerns

    http://www.denverpost.com/digitalfir...om-law-waivers

  24. #24
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    Bump?

  25. #25
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