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AVALANCHE: RESORT NOT TO BLAME FOR FATAL SLIDE
Wednesday July 17, 2019 - Email this article to a friend

Two died in-bounds in Taos, New Mexico, last January. Report clears the resort, but should area have been closed?








26-year-old Matthew Zonghetti and 22-year-old Corey Borg-Massanari were skiing in-bounds in Taos after heavy snow on a run that was declared open.

A member of the ski patrol saw the avalanche from the Kachina Peak ski lift and called out the rescue services.

The pair died after being dug out by rescuers under 2m of snow.

They set off the slide themselves while skiing the expert terrain.

We reported on the snow in the US and a number of avalanches in January 2019 at the time:
Taos, New MexicoTaos, New Mexico



























It was a "a freak accident," said the father of one of the victims,  Mike Zonghetti , at the time.

"It's extremely rare to have an avalanche take place inbounds in regular runs on a ski mountain," he said.

"From everything we have learned, there were dozens and dozens of people on the mountain."

Matthew Zonghetti Matthew Zonghetti

 

 



















Corey Borg-Massanari Corey Borg-Massanari






















Some questioned whether the area should have been closed off.

An investigation by the US Forest Service now reports that the necessary safety measures were taken by the resort.

It looked at weather monitoring and the use of explosives.

Members of the ski patrol were interviewed, and the rescuers.

Forest Service regional Winter Sports Coordinator, Adam LaDell, said agency's review showed ski resort personnel complied with operating procedures.

This included detailed snow safety procedures that accompany each day's decision on whether to open lifts and ski runs.

He said the procedures at Taos are in line with the industry's current standards for best practices on snow safety.

"We didn't find anything in our review, any red flags, anything they weren't doing that's in their permit," said Adam LaDell to US media.

"I'm very confident, where I'd go up and ride it and have no questions. Unfortunately things happen, very unfortunately."

The US has a different approach to avalanche safety than in Europe.

In general in Europe the marked runs and pistes are controlled, but anything off piste is skied at people's own risk except in so-called 'freeride areas'.

In North America the in-bounds terrain, which can be similar to off piste, is only open if it is deemed to be safe.

In this case it was not safe, as the fatal result shows.

"The main thing to understand with off piste safety is that it is never black and white - it is a grey area, where calculations are made and then experience and judgements reach a conclusion," observed the PlanetSKI editor, James Cove.

"Clearly all the correct protocol was observed in this case with the resort and ski patrol doing everything they could.

"Is it the resort's fault that two people died, or just the inherent risk of the mountains and skiing fresh powder snow?"

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: Number One for ski news

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