The widow of a skier who died in an avalanche in the Uinta Mountains in March has filed a lawsuit against Park City Powder Cats, a backcountry tour operator. The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages for negligence .Caroline Barr is seeking financial damages for negligence, and her legal representation includes Salt Lake City-based firms Adams Davis and Gross & Rooney.
The lawsuit, filed in Utah's Third District Court on July 20, alleges that Park City Powder Cats was negligent in leading the skier, Ryan Barr, 46, of San Diego, into a risky area.
- The lawsuit states that Barr and other guests on the tour were led by the company into a steep, narrow gully that was known to be avalanche-prone.
- The lawsuit also alleges that the guides did not take adequate precautions to mitigate the risk of an avalanche, such as assessing the snowpack conditions or using explosives to trigger controlled avalanches.
- The lawsuit also alleges that the guides allowed multiple skiers to enter into the slide path at the same time, which is against the recommendations of the Utah Avalanche Center.
Barr was killed in the avalanche on March 9. He was one of two skiers who were caught in the slide. The other skier was injured but survived.
The avalanche, as documented by the Utah Avalanche Center, was four feet deep, 400 feet wide, and ran over 1,000 feet vertically.
The Utah Avalanche Center official report states“ This avalanche was a hard slab avalanche that failed 2-6’ deep on a layer of rounding facets below a crust. Based on observations of layers in the crown face, it is suspected that this weak layer formed in the first few days of February (Feb. 1st-4th). Until this avalanche, there had been no notable avalanches failing on weak layers from early February. This slide broke 400’ wide, and ran nearly 1400’ vertical. This avalanche produced debris that averaged two-meters deep, and nearly three meters at its deepest. The toe of the avalanche debris ended at 8950’, and had a runout angle of 20 degrees at the toe. This avalanche is classified as HS-AS-R3-D3.”
“They detected a signal from the other buried skier and began probing at a location where a transceiver read 2 meters. On their second probe, they got a positive strike and began digging with assistance from Guide 1. They initially uncovered the skier’s ski boot and realized that the skier was upside-down with their head buried close to 2 meters deep. When the skier’s head was uncovered, they were not breathing and had no pulse. Ventilations and other medical care were provided while the remaing snow was removed around the skier. Once the skier was fully extricated from the avalanche debris, guides continued to administer medical care with support from an additional air ambulance crew. The skier was pronounced dead 1 hour and 20 minutes after the avalanche.”
“Guide 1 skied the slope in one pitch and stopped above a group of trees, outside the avalanche path. Skiers 1 and 2 descended one at a time to guide 1. Skier 3 began skiing next but fell part way down the slope. Skier 3 was still on the slope as Skier 4 began descending. At approximately 15:21, the avalanche released while Skiers 3 and 4 were both on the slope. Both skiers 3 and 4 were caught and carried downhill in the avalanche and fully buried.”
In 2020, the company was sued by a skier who was injured in an avalanche. That lawsuit is still pending.
Park City Powder Cats is a well-known backcountry tour operator in Utah. The company has been in operation for 29 years.