The Mountain Times

°F Sun, April 20, 2014

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Four Vermont ski deaths in early February

The deaths of four people at Vermont ski areas early this February is a "tragic coincidence" according to the Vermont Ski Areas Association.

"There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason," said Parker Riehle, executive director of the Vermont Ski Areas Association. "The trail conditions have been good."

Three men died after striking a tree off-trail. The other died of asphyxia.

Feb. 4, skier James Wong, 41, of Lexington, Mass., went off a steeper section of Sleeper Run, a mostly intermediate trail, at Sugarbush Resort in Warren.

Feb. 6, skier Michael Schroeter, 33, of Highland Mills, N.Y., fell and slid off an intermediate trail at Mount Snow in West Dover.

Feb. 11, Snowboarder Sylven Walton, 29, of Cambridge, Mass., fell and slid off an expert trail at Jay Peak Resort.

Feb. 16, a long time employee of Mad River Glen as a ski school instructor Andrew Stewart, age 51 of Fayston, Vt. died of positional asphyxia. Evidence at the scene showed that Stewart had attempted to move from the ski patrol office into the ski repair shop through a small adjoining window inside the building and became stuck. While the victim's death is unusual, it does not appear suspicious or criminal in nature. His death is thought to be accidental.

Jamey Wimble, General Manager of Mad River Glen stated, "I'm terribly saddened by this, and I know that feeling is shared by the rest of our staff.  He was a member of our team for more than ten years, and was a good friend and colleague for all of us.  We'll miss him, and our thoughts are with his family."

SAFETY

Wong and Walton were wearing helmets.

The average skier travels at about 23 mph, too quickly to rely on a helmet for protection. Helmets are not designed to protect a skier/rider above speeds of about 15 miles per hour, experts say.

About 40 people die each year in the United States from injuries sustained while skiing or snowboarding, according to the National Ski Areas Association.

Snowmaking machines have helped keep Vermont's ski resorts running this winter, and have kept conditions good albeit more hard-packed than most years. During the Presidents Day break, which began last weekend, Vermont resorts tend to bring in about a third of their business, Riehle said. Encouraging everyone to enjoy the slopes safely.