Christopher Jeffery Ruby didn’t collide with a tree when he died snowboarding at Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort on Tuesday.
The 20-year-old didn’t hit a rock, chairlift pole or another skier or snowboarder either.
He “took a hard fall” at a jump inside the terrain park, marking the resort’s first death from blunt-force trauma in its 51-year history, according to resort General Manager Kevin Stickelman.
“It’s been a difficult day,” Stickelman said Wednesday afternoon shortly before the Clark County coroner’s office ruled the cause of death as blunt-force chest trauma. “It really hits home because he’s a local, family has been skiing here for years.”
Customers have died from heart attacks on the patio at the base of the mountain, but only one other death has occurred on the resort’s slopes, Stickelman said. That was nine years ago when an avalanche started outside the resort’s boundaries but descended into the resort, burying a customer.
But there have been no blunt-force trauma deaths.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” Stickelman said, “up to this point.”
Ski patrol was called to the resort’s terrain park just before 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, arriving within a minute, Stickelman said. They found Ruby and called for Mount Charleston’s volunteer fire department, which transported Ruby to University Medical Center in Las Vegas, where he died.
Witnesses said Ruby didn’t collide with anyone or any objects but took a hard fall while attempting a jump in the terrain park, Stickelman said. He wasn’t wearing a helmet.
It’s “beyond our knowledge” if a helmet could’ve prevented Ruby’s death, added Stickelman who called the U.S. Forest Service Tuesday to investigate the death on its land being leased by the resort.
The Forest Service couldn’t be reached Wednesday for comment.
Ski patrol closed the jump Tuesday during the investigation, but the feature and the entire terrain park reopened to skiers and snowboarders Wednesday.
“There are inherent risks of skiing,” Stickelman said.
About 41 people die per year skiing or snowboarding in the United States, according to the National Ski Areas Association representing 325 alpine resorts. That converts to about one skier/snowboarder death per million visits.
The most recent data shows 54 skier/snowboarder deaths in the 2011-12 season. Two-thirds of those who died were wearing helmets.
The association emphasizes that helmets are most effective at providing protection from a direct blow to the head at speeds under 14 mph. Hit an object at high speed and “a helmet may not prevent or reduce a serious injury.”
Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0279.