Snowboard death sparks lawsuit

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WEST DOVER — A Connecticut woman is suing Mount Snow after her husband died during a snowboarding trip there early last year.

Arthur David Deacon III was 56 when he fell and hit a tree while snowboarding at Mount Snow on Jan. 24, 2016, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont. That morning, the Simsbury, Conn., resident took a chairlift at the resort to access Ripcord, the "steepest and most difficult trail on Mount Snow," the complaint states. He had snowboarded down the trail several times before, according to the complaint.

Ripcord "had been closed for most of the ski season due to lack of snow and treacherous ski conditions," the complaint states. Conditions "were hard-packed and icy, without any moguls that are typically known to exist on the steep trail. There was an outcropping of trees on the westerly side of Ripcord Trail, which had a double pitch both northerly and westerly."

Attorneys said Deacon fell about a third of the way down the trail, then began to slide down a steep, icy pitch board first, attempting to dig in an edge to slow down.

"As Mr. Deacon was falling, he encountered an unnatural object, known as a 'snowmaking whale,' which was a hard pile of ungroomed man-made snow, entirely iced over," the complaint states. "The presence of the snowmaking whale and pitch of the slope of the trail in Mr. Deacon's path caused Mr. Deacon to flip 180 degrees, falling head first, at which point he could not control his trajectory and was jettisoned head and chest first into a tree, after which his body went limp, hit a second tree, and then hit and landed on a snowmaking pipe."

Deacon died on impact after hitting the first tree, according to the complaint. When members of the ski patrol arrived, they said it was too dangerous to bring his body off the steep pitch, according the complaint. The crew was "forced to belay his body with ropes to the bottom of the steep section" of the trail, before bringing him to a rescue location, attorneys wrote.

The snowmaking whales "created an unexpected hazard that was neither an ordinary or necessary risk that a skier would be expected to anticipate," states the complaint, which also says that Mount Snow should have determined safety conditions of its trails before opening them to the public and ensured the snowmaking whales were properly groomed. Attorneys for Deacon's wife also said the resort should have maintained "safe and unobstructed conditions" on trails open to the public and warned guests of "any foreseeable unsafe conditions."

Attorneys for Deacon's wife claim she is owed compensation for marital and financial losses.

Attorneys for Mount Snow said Deacon failed to maintain control of his equipment and was riding beyond his ability.

Deacon "failed to make reasonable and proper use of his senses while snowboarding; he failed to keep a proper lookout; he failed to take evasive action to avoid falling in the manner that he fell," attorneys for the resort wrote. "Trees, snowmaking whales and moguls were not obstructed. They were open and obvious on the trail the day of the incident. He assumed the risk of injury."

Deacon was a "phenomenal athlete" who had hiked to the summit of Tuckerman's Ravine in New Hampshire and snowboarded down the ravine on a trip several months before his death, according to his obituary.

A spokesman for Mount Snow said it doesn't comment on pending litigation.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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