AP – Two Alpine Meadows avalanche lawsuits have been filed by the widow and a friend of a dead skier. They accuse the resort of negligently rushing to open the unsafe slopes for a busy holiday weekend.
Cole Comstock, 34, of Blairsden, California, was killed. His close friend Kaley Bloom was seriously injured. They were caught in an avalanche on an Alpine Meadows ski run on Jan. 17, 2020. Nobody else was seriously hurt.
Two Alpine Meadows avalanche lawsuits filed
The two Alpine meadows avalanche lawsuits were filed in Placer County Superior Court by Bloom and by Cole’s widow. They seek unspecified damages from Alpine Meadows. The allegations include negligence, gross negligence and breach of contract. Raymond’s lawsuit also alleged the resort was to blame for her late husband’s death.
The resort had closed the previous day following several days of heavy snow and high winds that dramatically increased avalanche risks, the lawsuits claimed. The National Weather Service in Reno reported wind gusts up to 116 mph the night before the avalanche.
Alpine Meadows “premature opening” that Friday “was in response to public and economic pressure to open that particular lift and callous disregard for the dangerous combination of conditions,” according to Bloom’s lawsuit. He says he suffered severe and ongoing injuries.
Avalanche Control work done
The avalanche happened after avalanche control work was performed, the resort said in a statement. Such work involves the use of explosive detonations. They intentionally trigger avalanches while guests are not in the area.
“While we cannot comment on ongoing litigation, January 17, 2020 was a devastating day for our team at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, and we continue to share our deepest sympathies with the family and friends of those affected,” Alex Spychalsky, a spokeswoman for both of the neighboring resorts, said in an emailed statement.
Raymond’s lawsuit says Alpine Meadows “should not have opened the ski run under the circumstances.”
Most skiers who buy ski resort passes must sign release forms. Those warn that winter activities “can be dangerous and involve the risk of injury or death.”
But Raymond’s lawsuit said the resort increased the risks beyond those normally assumed by skiers. Cole and Bloom believed they were skiing on a run that was safe because avalanche control had been performed.
Reopening the runs after they’d been closed the day before “created a false and reckless illusion of safety,” the lawsuit said. “Inadequate and/or incomplete mitigation measures did not decrease or mitigate the risks, but instead further increased the risk and turned a dangerous area into a deadly one.”
Raymond’s lawsuit notes that most ski fatalities occur outside of ski resorts. In-bounds avalanche deaths are rare.
Comstock was an experienced skier. He grew up in the Sierra Nevada and skied both in-bounds and out-of-bounds. Depending on the conditions of the day and information from the resort and the ski patrol, his widow said in the lawsuit.
Raymond was on the other side of the mountain when she got a phone call from friends. Telling her there had been an avalanche. She went to wait for her husband beneath a chairlift.
That’s when she saw the ski patrol pulling a stretcher with someone covered with snow and blood. They stopped and began administering CPR to the victim. Then she recognized her husband’s maroon ski boots and realized it was him.
She said blood spewed from his mouth with each push on his chest as the ski patrol team took turns at CPR for 45 minutes.
“Eventually they stopped as she watched them pull the white sheet over him. Her last image of her husband was a broken and already dead body,” the lawsuit said.
Seven people were killed in an avalanche at Alpine Meadows in 1982.