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Lawsuit against The Canyons dismissed

Patrick Parkinson Of the Record staff

A group of skiers and snowboarders who sued The Canyons last year after a woman was killed in an avalanche on Square Top peak have dismissed their claims against the resort.

"We were always confident in the defense of this case," said Kevin Simon, an attorney in Park City who represented The Canyons.

Nine members of the Reinfurt and Rand families filed a civil lawsuit against The Canyons and its parent company, American Skiing Company, June 30, 2004. They claimed resort personnel were negligent when they did not warn the group of the "considerable" avalanche danger lurking in Summit County’s backcountry Feb. 27, 2001.

But, according to a stipulation and order filed in Silver Summit Third District Court Nov. 28, "All plaintiffs understand that they will receive no compensation, damages, relief, and/or award of any kind in exchange for their voluntary dismissal with prejudice."

New Hampshire resident Sharon Reinfurt, 43, died in the Square Top slide near where two people were killed in an avalanche the year before.

The plaintiffs "voluntarily" dismissed the lawsuit, court papers state.

Before she died, Reinfurt was reportedly skiing near the Saddleback Express lift when she "noticed official photographers of The Canyons taking pictures of people across the way, on Square Top Mountain," a court complaint filed on behalf Reinfurt states.

The photographers allegedly instructed the group to access that area of the backcountry via a gate near The Canyons’ Ninety-Nine 90 lift.

"[The Canyons] did not advise or warn its guests and patrons of the danger and likelihood of avalanches in the backcountry," the complaint claims.

Reinfurt and six others reportedly left the ski resort boundaries to access U.S. Forest Service land not controlled for avalanches. Though it’s some of the county’s most enticing backcountry, when dangerous conditions exist, the area is notorious for slides.

The group triggered an avalanche that buried Reinfurt and her nephew Chris Rand.

Rand was rescued, but, according to court documents, Reinfurt died from asphyxiation before a ski patroller found her body several hours later.

Plaintiffs claimed the resort created a false sense of safety by encouraging backcountry travel.

However, Canyons staffers say the guests were sufficiently warned of the danger and "ASC did not owe plaintiffs or [Reinfurt] a duty to protect [them] from their alleged injuries," Simon states, in a court answer filed June 30, 2004.

The Canyons management advises those who enter the backcountry to use beacons, probes and shovels, and have experience negotiating avalanche-prone areas. The victims chose to ski Square Top at their own risk, court papers state.

According to ASC’s answer, "[ASC] alleges that decedent and plaintiffs contractually assumed any risks when they chose to ski at this facility, and they contractually waived any claims for injuries arising under the circumstances including death."

Reinfurt and Rand were responsible for informing themselves of the risks, Simon claimed.

Investigators said the avalanche that killed Reinfurt was nearly 200 feet wide and three feet deep. The woman wasn’t properly equipped for backcountry travel, they added.


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