By Stephen Seitz
KILLINGTON—Though a Rutland County jury awarded Nadine Price $750,000 in damages in her lawsuit against Killington Mountain Resort last week, there are still a few loose ends.
Price herself was not available for comment, but both her attorney and longtime partner used the same word to describe how she felt: “Vindicated.”
“The jury did a great job listening to the evidence, especially concerning Nadine’s PTSD,” said Chris Larson, one of Price’s attorneys. “We are pleased with the amount they awarded.”
In his opening statement at the trial, Larson asked for $300,000 in damages.
According to court personnel, Judge Helen M. Toor has yet to officially sign off on the verdict, and said they did not know when she would do that. Killington’s attorney, Andrew H. Maass, did not return a phone call for comment.
Before Oct. 1, 2011, Price was an active skier, coach, and hiker, a regular season pass holder. She had spent the day hiking the mountain, and decided to take a gondola back down at around 3 p.m. However, inclement weather led officials to decide to halt the gondola, leaving Price stranded far above the ground in 35 degree weather. She was not discovered until around 7 p.m., according to testimony from Douglas Tucker, Price’s longtime partner.
“She set her cell phone alarm for every half hour so she wouldn’t fall asleep there,” Tucker said. “She stomped her feet in order to stay warm. She kept saying, ‘I thought I was going to die.’”
Since that day five years ago, Tucker testified that Price’s personality has changed, and that it didn’t take much to trigger the terror all over again.
Despite her terror, Price still remains active in skiing events, causing many to wonder why.
In a telephone interview, Tucker said skiing was too much a part of Price for her to completely give it up.
“It’s her passion,” he said. “It’s what she craves, it’s what she loves doing. She doesn’t want to curl up into a ball in the corner.”
Incidents like Price’s seem to be extremely rare. In its most recent fact sheet about lift safety (2014), the National Ski Areas Association reported that no one has died from a lift malfunction since 1993, and while people do fall from chairlifts, the fact sheet itself doesn’t mention anyone being stranded.
“It is extraordinarily rare — maybe once in a decade in terms of rarity — to have a situation where a guest is caught on a chairlift or in a gondola riding down back the mountain, in part because we don’t have a lot of guests who ride lifts or gondolas to get down the mountain,” said Dave Byrd, the director of Risk & Regulatory Affairs at the National Ski Areas Association. “Although rare, if and when it does happen, it is often because a guest has not alerted someone at the ski area that they are accessing a lift or gondola — for example, in situations where a guest sneaks onto a lift that is about to be closed or has just been closed.”
Byrd added that broad cell service coverage reduced the chances of anyone being stranded for long.
“With the huge expansion of cellular service in the last decade, getting stranded on a lift or in a gondola is becoming even less of an issue, but that said, many ski areas are already in remote locations where there are pockets of a mountain may not be in cell range,” he said.
Nadine had been in one of those dead zones and was unable to get a call out.
The only similar case in recent years took place in Sept. 2016, when 100 people were stranded in a broken cable car in Chamonix, France. They were tourists, not skiers, and they were rescued by helicopters without injury.
Larson said he has not heard of any plans to appeal, though Killington has 30 days to do so.
By Stephen Seitz