Upper Gondolier is rated for intermediate skiers, and is considered part of the easiest way down from the top of Stowe Mountain Resort's gondola. But Tuesday, Roman Plonski, 30, of Brooklyn, N.Y., lost his life when he lost control on the trail. He clipped a child, and then slammed into a sign post.
Emergency responders pronounced him dead after administering care at the Mid-Mountain base lodge shortly after 1 p.m.
"It was his first day of skiing for his trip to Stowe," Stowe Police Chief Donald Hull said.
Hull says Plonski came up to Vermont with family members and the death is still under investigation.
Plonski wore a helmet but it's unclear how much speed he carried at the time of the accident.
Reporter Kyle Midura: Was he on a trail beyond his ability level?
Chief Donald Hull: That's what we're trying to determine. We're speaking with family members to figure out what his expertise was.
The medical examiner has not determined a cause of death, but head injury is not suspected.
Plonski is the third skier or rider to die at a Vermont resort this season. UVM student Kendra Bowers, 19, died after an accident at Sugarbush earlier this month. Ski patrollers found the body of Jennifer Strohl, 21, at Killington in December.
"Unfortunately, no matter what we've done through the years, the statistics are not changing. People do die at the rate of about one in 750,000 skier days," said Dr. Robert Johnson of the University of Vermont.
Johnson is technically retired, but still works at Sugarbush's mountainside clinic.
He says the rate of skier and snowboarder deaths has not fallen over the last two decades despite the rising use of helmets. They don't protect against head injury at higher speeds, or the rest of the body at any speed.
"If you hit something going as fast as the average skier skis when they're free-skiing, it can be a disaster with a seemingly innocuous fall," Johnson said.
Johnson says the best way to stay safe is to know your limits and ski within them. He says you should wear a helmet, but warns against letting the added safety precaution lead you to skiing more aggressively.
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