| DENVER, June 19
DENVER, June 19 A Colorado judge has ruled that
a ski resort operator is not immune from a wrongful death
lawsuit filed by the parents of a 13-year-old boy who was killed
in an avalanche on Vail Mountain in 2012.
Broomfield District Court Judge Chris Melonakis denied a
motion for summary judgment filed by Vail Resorts, which
argued that Colorado's Ski Safety Act granted it legal immunity
because of the "inherent dangers" associated with skiing and
The parents of Taft Conlin sued Vail, saying the resort
violated the safety act when it closed the upper gate to an area
known as Prima Cornice because of high avalanche danger, but not
the lower section.
The teenager hiked up a trail to ski and was killed when an
avalanche swept down the mountainside.
The lawsuit alleges that Vail knew for years that skiers
would use the lower entrance to access the mountain, and as such
should have closed both entrances to the trail.
The judge ruled the case could proceed and that it would be
up to a jury to decide if Vail was liable.
"Whether the ski patrol was aware that skiers hiked from the
Lower Prima Cornice gate to the Upper Prima Cornice trail is a
disputed issue of fact," Melonakis wrote in his decision.
Robert Blume, an attorney defending Vail Resorts, said the
company was committed to safety for visitors and while it was
"terribly saddened" over the tragedy, the case had no legal
"This is a case involving an inherent danger of skiing and
the tragic decision to take inappropriate risks and hike far
into closed terrain," Blume said in a statement. "We are
confident a jury will agree."
The family's lawyer, Jim Heckbert, said his clients were
pleased with the judge's decision.
"The parents just want a jury to hear how their son died,
and what Vail failed to do," he said.
A trial date has not been set.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Peter