“He taught and coached in Aspen and Vail, and became well-known for analyzing the techniques of World Cup racers and expert ski instructors, using his own high-definition sequence photos”– Skiing History Magazine
Ronald LeMaster was a famous ski instructor based in Colorado. If you’re into reading books about skiing, you’ll recognize some of his work: Ultimate Skiing, The Essential Guide to Skiing, and the Skiers Edge. Last November, LeMaster got struck from behind by snowboarder Nicholas K. Martinez at Eldora Mountain in Colorado, which ended up killing him. The Denver Gazette reports that the snowboarder who collided with LeMaster will only face a petty offense regarding the collision. For perspective, a “class 2 petty charge carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine.” Based on Ronald’s legacy in the ski industry, along with the clear negligence on the snowboarder’s part, the Lemaster family is shocked that the prosecutors are not going for manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges against Martinez.
According to the report, the situation unfolded as follows according to Reece:
The collision occurred about 50 (feet) to my right. The impact caused both involved to tumble and slide about 100 (feet). The trajectory of the slide was downhill and across the fall line, [from] skiers’ right to skiers’ left. Ron LeMaster stopped about 100-150 (feet) below me. The snowboarder skid another 30-50 feet downhill from where Ron’s body came to rest. This indicates to me the speed of the snowboarder and force of the impact.”
In contrast, Martinez claimed the following:
“Martinez said as he was coming down the left side of the run, he could see LeMaster in front of him weaving back and forth in the center of the run. Martinez said as he was getting closer to LeMaster, LeMaster took a sharp turn and began coming towards the left side of the run. Martinez (stated) he began yelling ‘Left, left, left’ attempting to let LeMaster know he was on the outside of the run. Martinez said he was unable to avoid the collision with LeMaster and their heads collided.”
One of the odd instances in this situation is that LeMasters friend, Gordon Reece, claimed that the snowboarder grabbed his phone while he started to record the incident. Martinez denied those claims. The snowboarder also decided to not stick around after the collision to be with LeMaster(he claimed it was to clean himself off).
The Boulder County coroner found that Ronald Lemaster became unconscious and was bleeding from his mouth, nose, and eyes despite him wearing a helmet. Some of the injuries that he suffered broken bones in his face, spine, ribs, left collar bone, and sternum.
There are multiple reasons why the prosecution didn’t push for a manslaughter charge: “no one saw Martinez snowboarding out of control, and he didn’t admit to being out of control, and investigators couldn’t determine if he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, prosecutors couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Martinez was guilty of manslaughter.” The LeMaster family is waiting till the end of the criminal trial for an official verdict, but they are considering legal action against Martinez.
Jim Chalat, an attorney that specializes in ski law, said the following about the case:
“I’m surprised the snowboarder was only charged with leaving the scene. This sounds like reckless conduct. I’ve not been contacted by anyone in the case … (but) the family would have a civil claim of wrongful death…Skier collision cases are not barred by that assumption of risk. Skiing is not a contact sport. … Skiers have a duty to maintain control, look out and be aware of their surroundings. The presumption is that the downhill skier has the right (of) way.”
At the end of the day, the situation doesn’t look good for Eldora. Five people died from skier collisions at the Colorado ski resort in 2021, and another skier died this February. While Eldora won the “Best Guest Safety Program” last week from the National Ski Areas Association, it’s clear that’s not enough. It now even has a nickname among CU Boulder students: Dead-ora. The crowded ski resort that’s close to Denver and Boulder should consider capacity limits to increase guest safety.