The line for a lift grows steadily as more people arrive throughout the day on the opening day of ski season at Stevens Pass Ski Area on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, near Skykomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

The line for a lift grows steadily as more people arrive throughout the day on the opening day of ski season at Stevens Pass Ski Area on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, near Skykomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Woman sues over ‘catastrophic’ injuries in fall from Stevens Pass lift

Miroslava Lewis suffered a traumatic brain injury, a collapsed lung and four fractured vertebrae, among other long-term disabilities.

EVERETT — A former Stevens Pass employee has sued the ski area’s parent company after she fell about 30 feet from a ski lift and struck a tree in 2022, causing “catastrophic injuries.”

Miroslava “Mirka” Lewis, of Snohomish County, alleges Vail Resorts, the owner of the Stevens Pass resort, knew their ski lifts were “old, outdated, unsafe, and failed to meet industry standards” prior to the incident last year that left her with severe head injuries and disabilities, according to the lawsuit filed last week in Snohomish County Superior Court.

“Mirka can no longer work as an accountant and will need a lifetime of care as a result of Vail’s inaction,” attorney Bob Zimmerman of Saltz Mongeluzzi and Bendesky said in an email.

After her shift Jan. 30, 2022, Lewis boarded the ski lift to get to the base of the mountain. She asked the ski lift operator to fully stop so she could get on. The operator did not fully stop the lift as she boarded, so Lewis was “unable to get properly seated on the lift” before it began ascending down the mountain, the lawsuit said.

“As the lift took off down the mountain, Ms. Lewis was thrown from the lift,” the complaint said.

Vail Resorts did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Based in Colorado, the company is one of the largest ski resort conglomerates in the nation, with nearly 40 mountain resorts across the country.

The lawsuit alleges Vail Resorts failed to adequately staff the resort, evaluate workplace hazards and provide adequate training.

At the time, Stevens Pass attendees were growing increasingly frustrated with long lift lines and a lack of parking as half of the mountain was closed.

Employees and ski enthusiasts have blamed Vail Resorts for mismanagement since the company acquired the ski area in 2018. In late 2021, an online petition accused Vail Resorts of deceiving customers for profit. The petition got over 46,000 signatures.

Stevens Pass received hundreds of consumer complaints with the state Attorney General’s Office. Vail Resorts has offered pass holders a deal if they choose to return next season.

Tom Fortune, who worked at Stevens Pass for 20 years, took up a management position halfway through the 2021-22 ski season in an attempt to improve conditions.

In January of last year, Lewis had enrolled her daughter in the Stevens Pass Alpine Club. According to the lawsuit, the resort was understaffed at this time and requested parents take shifts running the ski lift. Lewis agreed to do a few, receiving one day of training. For several weeks, the plaintiff was an official employee and worked five-hour shifts as a ski lift operator.

Stevens Pass has a total of 10 lifts, according to its website. The lawsuit claims the ski lift Lewis was operating was designed in the 1960s by Riblet Tramway Company and lacked several safety precautions now considered standard in modern lifts. The lift suspended two chairs from a single pole in the center, with no safety bars or bails on the outside to confine passengers.

Lewis suffered a traumatic brain injury, collapsed lung, four fractured vertebrae and other severe injuries, according to the complaint. She required multiple surgeries on her breasts and knees.

The plaintiff also reportedly had to relearn how to speak, walk and write due to the severity of her injuries.

In the 2021-22 season, the National Ski Areas Association reported 56 catastrophic injuries in skiers and snowboarders across the country. A majority of the injuries involved a collision with a tree. It is unclear how many injuries occurred at Stevens Pass in the past year.

However, the ski areas association noted lifts are overall an “exceptionally safe and secure mode of transportation,” with rare exceptions, according to a 2012 report.

Stevens Pass declined to comment due to the pending litigation.

Maya Tizon: 425-339-3434;; Twitter: @mayatizon.

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