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Park City/Vail Fined by UOSH/OSHA for Patroller Death

thetrailboss

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I thought we had discussed this in January but I am not seeing it anywhere. A ski patroller died when a snow laden tree fell on the haul rope of the Short Cut Triple Chair on the Canyons side. The force caused the patroller to be ejected from the chair and launched fifty feet before hitting the snow and dying of asphyxiation. UOSH/OSHA investigated and determined that PCMR's morning lift line inspections were inadequate as were training of the lift operators. LiftBlog has provided a summary and the actual report. The local news station has also reported (and interviewed Professor Sean Doll from NVU Lyndon) Both are below.


 

AdironRider

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Hard for me to really blame a ski resort for, IMO, the closest you'll see to an act of god event resulting in an employee death.

But que the Vail haters to slam the company for not predicting, and in turn preventing, an event that has never happened in the history of ski resorts which results in a death (as stated by the professor in the article).
 

AdironRider

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Yes and it doesn't change the fact that you are asking a human to look at a tree and say, that tree is going to fall over because snow is on it. The vast majority of lift lines run through at least some wooded area where this is a theoretical possibility.

Hate to break it to you, but lifts are never going to open if that is the case. I don't care how well you train a lift operator, that is an impossible task to expect them to predict exactly when something will fail that is completely out of their control and not mechanical related.
 

urungus

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that is an impossible task to expect them to predict exactly when something will fail that is completely out of their control and not mechanical related.
A tree fell on the line only a day before, and a second tree also had to be removed. That is plenty of warning that another tree might be likely to fall. And tree inspection, trimming and removal are absolutely under their control (unless there is some sort of forest service restriction which I find difficult to believe would override safety concerns).
 

raisingarizona

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A tree fell on the line only a day before, and a second tree also had to be removed. That is plenty of warning that another tree might be likely to fall. And tree inspection, trimming and removal are absolutely under their control (unless there is some sort of forest service restriction which I find difficult to believe would override safety concerns).
Sometimes trees that look perfectly safe just snap under weight. The fact is we really don't know with the information given.

I am surprised that lift lines aren't cut wide enough so this isn't an issue. With longer drought periods and more extreme storm events our forests are under a lot of stress in the western states. I imagine this will be an increasing threat if the climate science is right.

We constantly have trees falling at our ski area here in Flagstaff. The forest around the area was left untreated for 70 some odd years and all fires were suppressed creating an overgrown and unhealthy forest. Over the last ten years a lot of acreage has been thinned for tree skiing and new runs have been cleared which opens up corridors for increased wind speeds. The trees developed root structures for much less wind as they were surrounded by an overgrown forest that blocked wind and created support for one another. Now they drop all the time.

The skiing here has gotten exceptionally better though as more and more terrain gets opened up.
 
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ss20

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A minute from the Alta exit off the I-15!
Sometimes trees that look perfectly safe just snap under weight. The fact is we really don't know with the information given.

I am surprised that lift lines aren't cut wide enough so this isn't an issue. With longer drought periods and more extreme storm events our forests are under a lot of stress in the western states. I imagine this will be an increasing threat if the climate science is right.

Not meaning to pile on but hard to not blame Vail for this. I hear of trees falling/hitting a lift only a very small handful of times a year. Because things can be done to prevent that. Like...cutting/trimming.

Sounds like PCMR knew they had a problem and needed to get some more trimming done but due to the remoteness of the lift line/time constraints they said f it.
 

urungus

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1. If you owned a ski resort and a tree fell on one of your lift lines, would you carefully inspect the remaining trees adjacent to the line to see if any of them are showing signs of the same problem, before reopening the lift ?
2. Do you think 24 hours is enough time to carefully inspect all the trees adjacent to the lift line given the conditions (2 feet of snow in last 48 hours) ?
 

raisingarizona

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Not meaning to pile on but hard to not blame Vail for this. I hear of trees falling/hitting a lift only a very small handful of times a year. Because things can be done to prevent that. Like...cutting/trimming.

Sounds like PCMR knew they had a problem and needed to get some more trimming done but due to the remoteness of the lift line/time constraints they said f it.
There's no way they can manage all of the trees at these large western ski resorts. It would have to be an all or nothing deal as I mentioned requiring lift lines to be cut back far enough that it's a non issue.

Having staff constantly evaluate trees along lift lines ain't going to happen. With that much snow you probably wouldn't be able to see this danger anyways but again, there isn't enough information posted for any of us to from a concrete opinion. It could have been as clear as day and an obvious oversight or it was likely unnoticeable.

Unless you were there that day none of really know.
 

raisingarizona

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1. If you owned a ski resort and a tree fell on one of your lift lines, would you carefully inspect the remaining trees adjacent to the line to see if any of them are showing signs of the same problem, before reopening the lift ?
2. Do you think 24 hours is enough time to carefully inspect all the trees adjacent to the lift line given the conditions (2 feet of snow in last 48 hours)

1. They did ask the lift to inspect the line. Lifties aren't required to be forestry experts and they sure ain't paid enough to be! It's possible that no one on patrol or their mechanics know much about that either. I will agree that there is a pressure from upper ski area management to get things open and guests out skiing that can have people making poor decisions but again, it's hard for me to develop a strong opinion from the information given.



2. I don't know why the reply is in your quote here but there it is.
I've done forestry work on and off for a whole bunch of years and was a Sawyer for one year straight but I can't say I could or could not identify all possible hazard trees in any sort of time space or in any kind of condition. The thing is, trees or forestry work is complicated. You may very well be right but again, there isn't enough information given to form an opinion.


The photo of the circled tree on the ground also doesn't tell us much. I can't exactly see where it came from, if it snapped up high or the root ball gave. I can see that it was green. If it was a big dead hanger then that might be different but it wasn't.
 

cdskier

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I tend to agree more with raisingarizona on this one...I really don't see there being enough info here to blame Vail. 2 trees falling one day does not automatically mean another is definitely going to fall the next day. And PC staff did check the rest of the lift line and didn't see other trees that needed to be addressed beyond the ones they cut down. Not like they just completely ignored the issue. Expecting lift operators to be able to assess the status of trees while taking their morning line rides also seems unrealistic. I doubt any resort out there actually has lift operators that would know what to look for. Is there any resort out there that has fully trained tree experts on staff?

This lift line does seem rather narrow. Is that normal? I can think of some lines with branches that could hit a line, but it is rare that I can think of any lines where a very large portion of a tree could fall and hit the line. And I can't say I blame Vail for that. The lift line was cut and approved by someone when it was built (don't know enough about PC's history...but I'm guessing potentially before Vail even owned it).
 

raisingarizona

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One thing is for sure, the family of the desist better have a lawyer on this stat. They are guaranteed a big win.
 

crystalmountainskier

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And tree inspection, trimming and removal are absolutely under their control (unless there is some sort of forest service restriction which I find difficult to believe would override safety concerns).
Park City Mountain is 100% private land. No Forest Service.
 

Tonyr

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1. If you owned a ski resort and a tree fell on one of your lift lines, would you carefully inspect the remaining trees adjacent to the line to see if any of them are showing signs of the same problem, before reopening the lift ?
2. Do you think 24 hours is enough time to carefully inspect all the trees adjacent to the lift line given the conditions (2 feet of snow in last 48 hours) ?
Also this chair that the tree fell on gets low traffic and is somewhat of a non essential lift. I don't think I've ever even ridden it. If a tree fell on it the day before due to all of the heavy snow coming down, (which was well over 3 feet) I don't understand why they didn't just keep the lift closed to begin with. No one would have cared if they didn't open it and as a matter of fact i don't think that lift ever opened the previous season. About 12 lifts stayed closed during the 21/22 season and I believe Short Cut was one of them.

Screenshot_20230522_215357_Chrome.jpg
 

drjeff

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I My family and I have ridden it many times. Completely a lift that we would only use at the end of the day as we were heading back to the Canyons base area to actually ski down vs downloading on the Red Pine Gondola at the end of the day.

Maybe once or twice 1st thing in the AM, if we took the Red Pine Gondola up and wanted to quckly get get to the Sun Peak Express or Super Condor areas of the mountain we'd atke it, but in essence it functions as a transfer lift only from the Red Pine Lodge area of the mountain to allow those that want to ski/ride back to the main base verses downloading on the Gondola to do so.
 
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