Mt. Bachelor is being sued by the families of a skier and a snowboarder who died after falling into tree wells on the same day in 2018. The lawsuit is asking for $30 million and says that the ski area “knew or should have known of the danger” after three weeks of snow that could produce tree wells “into which skiers and snowboarders could fall, become buried in snow, trapped and suffocate to death.”
Although the accidents were unrelated, they occurred on the same day. The families filed a wrongful death lawsuit that blames the resort for failing to close off the areas, neglecting to mark the tree wells properly, and failing to warn riders that the recent heavy snowfall could create dangerous conditions. The Bend Bulletin reported that the suit alleges there were 11 different failures in all.
The victims, 24-year-old Alfonso Braun and 19-year-old Nicole Panet-Raymond, were found on different areas of the mountain. Braun was found in West Bowls while Panet-Raymond was found near a run called White Bark. The suit alleges that both riders were within the ski area’s boundaries when they fell into the tree wells. Braun, who lived in Bend, was found under 6-feet of snow at around noon on March 2, 2018. He had been riding with a friend, but they lost sight of each other. Just a few hours later, at 3:30 p.m., Panet-Raymond was reported missing. She was found by crews at around 8:30 p.m. that evening.
“They (Panet-Raymond and Braun) were both in-bounds in the area where the ski resort would expect them to be,” said Portland attorney Dan Dziuba, who is representing the families, in a statement. “The resort knows people like to ski in the powder and that’s in the trees, and that’s where the tree wells are.”
Mt. Bachelor President and General Manager John McLeod released a statement addressing the lawsuit. “These types of incidents caused by hazards naturally present in the mountain environment are thankfully rare,” he said. “Our hearts and deepest condolences go out to the affected families and friends. The safety of our employees and guests is our number one priority. For information about tree wells and safe skiing in the trees, please visit: Deepsnowsafety.org.”