VAIL, Colo. — Last year, little snow fell at Vail. But in January, after one of the very few dumps, locals took to the slopes with glee.
Among those locals was an adolescent, 13-year-old Taft Conlin. Skiing down the mountain that day, he and companions discovered that the lower portion of a ski run named Prima Cornice was open. The upper portion of the steep ski trail had been roped off, and although he and his companions may not have realized it, the reason it was roped off was because of the threat of avalanche.
Entering the trail below the steeper part, he and companions side-stepped up the closed portion of the trail 120 vertical feet. It had not been roped off from below. That's when tragedy occurred. An avalanche 200 feet across broke, burying him and his companions. The other boys were able to escape and ski out, but Conlin died.
At issue is whether Vail Resorts, the ski area operator, took proper precautions to prevent the boys from side-stepping up the slope.
Colorado several decades ago adopted legislation called the Safety Skier Act. In this and other cases of skier deaths at Steamboat's Howelsen Hill and at Winter Park Resort, there are questions whether the law provides too much protection to ski area operators from legal challenges.
Lawsuits were filed in all three cases. Meanwhile, Vail Resorts this past week announced it had adopted a new policy as a result of the fatality on Prima Cornice.
"Prior to the accident, our ski patrol had not anticipated that skiers or riders would hike into the closed terrain from the lower gate," said the company in a statement. "As a result, we continue to believe that our ski patrol had taken all appropriate actions regarding mitigation, closures and openings in this area."
Given what they now know about potential skier behavior in that area, said the company, "when the upper Prima Cornice gate is closed due to avalanche concerns, they will keep the lower Prima Cornice gate closed as well."
Conference aims to put a dent in the universe
SUN VALLEY, Idaho — Aspen has the Ideas Festivals, and Whistler will soon have the TED conference. A new conference in Sun Valley vows to pick up where they leave off.
"Now that we live and work in an information economy, we have become surrounded by conferences that celebrate ideas," says the website for the Dent the Future conference.
"But the next phase of our economy requires more than ideas: it requires a kind of creative execution. You need more than a vision to put a dent in the universe. You need the tools and talents to make it happen."