The Utah Division of Occupational Safety and Health (UOSH) issued a $2,500 violation to Park City Mountain for the January death of an employee after a tree fell on the Short Cut triple chair. The fine was assessed in March but first reported by Fox 13 Utah reporter Nate Carlisle over the weekend. The state found that Park City and parent company Vail Resorts should have known of the hazard of falling trees because two trees had to be removed from the same lift line the day before the accident. The state also found that lift operators were not trained or knowledgeable enough to assess trees for hazard along lift lines during morning line rides.
Park City Mountain received 25 inches of heavy, wet snow in the days leading up to the January 2nd incident. The day prior, Short Cut opened late due to a tree leaning on the lift that had to be removed. The Yan triple chair was closed later that day at 1:19 pm to remove another hazard tree identified by a lift mechanic. Less than 24 hours later, another tree fell on the heavy side of the line between towers 6 and 7. That time a patroller, 29 year old Christian Helger, was riding a chair nearby. The lift de-roped off a tower with the heavy side coming to rest in a rope catcher as designed. Helger was thrown from the chair, fell approximately 50 feet and landed head first in deep snow. Due to his location in a ravine and snow safety concerns, it took time for additional patrollers to reach the scene and dig Helger out. Despite lifesaving rescue efforts, Helger could not be revived and was later found to have died by asphyxiation. Other riders on the lift, including guests, were later evacuated by rope. The report does not address whether Helger had his lap bar down as required by Vail Resorts company policy.
The state interviewed numerous employees after the accident. One patroller identified only as “employee #4” said “Lift Operators are usually newer, younger employees, and have ‘no idea’ what to look for on a Line Ride.” Another patroller, who had previously worked as a lift operator, said “there is pressure to get lifts open in the morning, and there was ‘no time’ to ski the runs and check the lifts.” A Short Cut lift operator on duty the day of the accident reported that “he was told during the morning Line Ride to look for the cable being centered on the sheaves, and to look for trees leaning on the line but that he did not know what an unstable tree would look like.”
“Based on documents and photos received from all sources, the heavy snow received on January 1, and overnight into January 2, and the fact that two trees had to be removed from the Shortcut Lift line on January 1, 2023, VR-CPC Holdings (Vail Park City Resort management) should have been aware of the hazard of possible falling trees around the Shortcut Lift,” wrote the state, issuing a “serious” violation with a fine of $2,500. Vail Resorts has contested the citation and the fine could be reduced or eliminated in the future. In a statement, Park City Mountain vice president and chief operating officer Deirdra Walsh said “The Park City Mountain team is deeply saddened by the tragic death of our team member, Christian Helger. We extend our deepest sympathy to his family and friends.”
Short Cut never reopened during the season and requires significant repairs this summer.
Wow, a person’s life is only worth a $2,500 violation?
LikeLiked by 1 person
No… This is what a violation costs tho. It does serve as some pretty handy evidence for a potential case where a judge does try to pin a number on a patroller’s life.
Why is vail resorts even trying to lessen the fine. That is nothing to them especially considering someone died.
Because it establishes liability. Meaning this would be a pretty quick civil case for Christian’s family. If the state says Vail/PCMR did nothing wrong, and it was basically an act of God or reasonable oversight… Lot tougher case.
Yeah, liability here is a huge deal. Horrible incident.
I’m sure the family of Christian Helger is grateful for Vail’s deepest sympathy. NOT