SAM Magazine—Eagle, Colo., June 21, 2018—A jury ruled in favor of Vail Resorts on June 20 in the wrongful death trial of 13-year-old Taft Conlin, who was killed in an in-bounds avalanche at Vail in 2012. Vail’s ski patrol had closed the upper Prima Cornice run, but a lower entry to the slope had remained open. Conlin had entered and climbed up toward the cornice when the avalanche occurred. Conlin’s parents, Dr. Louise Ingalls and Dr. Stephen Conlin, had sued the ski company for negligence, saying the resort had violated Colorado’s Skier Safety Act because it did not close the run properly.
The trial was held at Eagle Country District Court.
The suit led the jury to consider whether the resort should have known that skiers and riders would hike up from the lower entrance to the slope, something the plaintiffs claimed had been occurring for decades. Vail countered by saying that patrol had never seen this occur and the resort was not aware of any such behavior.
In a statement following the trial, Doug Lovell, Vail Mountain’s chief operating officer, applauded Wednesday’s verdict while at the same time expressing sympathy for the Taft family and friends. “Vail Resorts … believes this was a thoughtful and well-reasoned decision, consistent with Colorado law. Nonetheless, we are also aware of how difficult the trial has been for everyone involved, and we remain deeply saddened by the tragic events of Jan. 22, 2012, and for the family and friends of Taft Conlin. The company continues to place the highest value on the safety of our guests and employees and is proud of the Vail Ski Patrol and their ongoing commitment and professionalism. We will continue to work hard each and every day to mitigate risk and provide a safe environment for skiers and snowboarders on the mountain.”