Slippery Slopes

Ashley Stamp's deadly accident should look familiar to Vail.

There are important differences between the accidents that killed Ashley Stamp and injured Bruce Baskerville. For example, the snowmobile that hit Baskerville was arguably performing work that could have just as easily been done after the resort had closed and the skiers were off the mountain. Stamp, by comparison, was participating in a ski race on a part of Vail Mountain not served by a ski lift; snowmobiles were the only means of getting the racers back up the hill.

Yet the collisions share common traits, too. Like Baskerville, Stamp was apparently skiing through a terrain feature that hid her and Chard from one another. She was just coming out of a relatively flat stretch that suddenly dropped into a steep descent -- a common trail configuration. Chard ran into her at the point where the flat meets the grade.

It is unclear what position Chard was in while he was driving up the hill -- standing or kneeling, as the Vail manual instructs, or posting, as Hoefer was when he and Baskerville struck each other. In fact, initial reports after the Stamp accident seemed to nudge the blame toward the middle-schooler. She was said to be wearing headphones under her helmet. That would have meant she might not have heard the siren Chard's snowmobile reportedly had on as he traveled uphill at a responsible speed of ten miles per hour. "As it stands now, I don't see fault on the part of either victim," a state trooper said following the incident.

Sam Turner

Later statements from witnesses cast doubt on Chard's version of what happened that morning. Stamp's father, for instance, told a 9News reporter there was no way headphones would fit under his daughter's helmet. In addition, several of Stamp's teammates on the hill that day said they never heard the snowmobile's siren. They also claimed Chard was driving much faster than ten miles per hour. The snowmobile "was going fast enough to go into the air over the blind knolls on the open run," several of Stamp's teammates wrote in e-mails sent to the Denver Post.

Whether or not another snowmobile/skier collision will force Vail -- or any Colorado ski resort -- to revisit its policies is unclear. Both Peter Rietz, who represented Vail in the Baskerville case, and Lipman say a confidentiality clause prevents them from discussing details of that settlement. And with more litigation looming, Vail declined to discuss either the Stamp incident or its snowmobile protocols.

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