Colorado Skier Killed After Being Asphyxiated by Coat in Ski Lift at Vail Mountain

A skier in Colorado died on Thursday after he allegedly fell through an opening on a ski lift and became caught with his coat wrapped around his head and neck, according to several reports. A coroner has ruled it an accident.

Jason Varnish, 46, of Short Hills, New Jersey, was skiing at the Vail Mountain Resort when he attempted to board one of the resort’s ski lifts.

Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis told The Vail Daily that witness reports indicate that the ski lift’s folding chair was in an upright position when Varnish went to board, which left an open area on the lift that he allegedly fell through.

“We are still investigating how this whole situation happened. According to our initial investigation, the deceased slipped through the seat of the chair lift and his ski coat got caught up in the chair,” Bettis told the local newspaper. “The coat ended up going up around his head and neck area putting his neck in a position that compromised his airway.”

Vail Mountain Ski Patrol reportedly responded to the incident and performed CPR and emergency care on-scene before Varnish was transported to Vail Health, where he was pronounced dead, Vail Mountain told PEOPLE in a statement.

“Vail Mountain confirms a serious incident that took place yesterday involving a 46-year-old man from New Jersey,” the statement read. “The incident occurred when the guest attempted to load the Skyline Express lift (Chair 37). Vail Mountain Ski Patrol responded to the incident and performed CPR and emergency care on scene before the guest was transported to Vail Health, where he was pronounced deceased.”

“We take all incidents seriously and are conducting a full investigation,” they continued. “The lift has been thoroughly inspected and is operating normally.”

“Vail Mountain and the entire Vail Resorts family express our sincere condolences and extend our support to the guest’s family and friends,” Beth Howard, the resort’s chief operating officer, added.

President’s Day is one of the busiest weekends for the area, as many skiers and backcountry travelers head for the slopes.

On Monday, authorities in Eagle County confirmed the deaths of two snowmobilers who were killed in an avalanche they accidentally triggered on Muddy Pass, located north of Vail.


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