Coroner: Vail skier who died of positional asphyxia didn’t fall through chair

Investigation into death of Jason Varnish, 46, on Chair 37 in Vail’s Blue Sky Basin is ongoing

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Chris Dillmann |

Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis continues to investigate the death of Jason Varnish, 46, on Feb. 13 at Vail while riding Chair 37 in Blue Sky Basin. In an Eagle County news release on Monday, Bettis clarified that Varnish did not fall through the chair, which contradicts earlier reporting.

Rather, Varnish died of positional asphyxia, as originally reported, when he became entangled by his clothing that appears to have been caught on a portion of the chairlift. He was unable to breathe due to his coat and tight clothing around his chest and abdominal region. The death has been ruled accidental.  

According to at least one witness, the chairlift seat was up when Varnish and a companion attempted to load Chair 37 in Vail’s Blue Sky Basin, according to the release. Positional asphyxia remains the cause of Varnish’s death, Bettis said.

Varnish, according to his obituary, is survived by his sons Cameron and Luko, his daughter Grace, and their mother Jo.

The ongoing investigation includes Vail Ski Patrol, Vail Resorts, Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board, Eagle County Paramedic Services, Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Eagle County Coroner’s Office, Vail Public Safety Communications.

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