Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
PARK CITY — A Park City father wants a review of safety protocols after his 5-year-old son went missing from ski school at Deer Valley for more than an hour and a half.
"He was stuck in a tree well, in the trees by himself, and had to self-rescue and crawl out of deep snow by himself — and reminder, he's 5," Karl Persson said.
The incident happened the afternoon of Feb. 12 on Flagstaff Mountain. Persson says he and his wife learned their son was missing around 1:15 p.m. when they spotted his ski instructor near Silver Lake Village.
"He said our son was lost, so of course, that was concerning," Persson said. "I was really concerned, so I went back up Judge and started sweeping the mountain thinking he was on the other side down by the Wasatch lift."
Persson claims Ski Patrol was never notified that his son was missing.
"At no point did I see any red coats, any of the ski patrol assisting and searching at all, only the green coat ski school," the father said.
Persson said around 2:48 p.m. a couple spotted his son alone on the mountain and helped him.
"He was very scared. He said he was all by himself, that no one helped him, and he was stuck in a tree and had to take off his skis and climb out, and then this really nice man and woman helped him when he got down to the Banner ski run," Persson said.
KSL-TV requested information about the incident from Deer Valley and was issued this statement from senior communications manager Emily Summers:
"On Sunday afternoon, February 12, 2023, a child became separated from his instructor and ski school class on Deer Valley's Flagstaff Mountain. The child was found safe and uninjured by guests and our staff, who helped reunite this child with his family. A student being separated from their instructor is something we take seriously. We have specific protocols in place to communicate with on-mountain staff to coordinate a search and locate the student as quickly as possible. We apologize for the distress this has caused to the child and his family, and we are meeting with each of our instructors and mountain leaders to reinforce and review our existing training and procedures."
After Persson and his wife were reunited with their son, he said he contacted the Park City Police Department. In a Citizen Assist/Missing Person report filed Feb. 12, and provided by Persson to KSL-TV, the sergeant who took the report notified him that while the case wasn't criminal in nature, he would contact Deer Valley Human Resources and Risk Management to inform them of the incident.
The sergeant writes in the report that he expressed to Persson that his "follow-up question or criticism for Deer Valley staff would be in regard to why no one called the police to assist in looking" for the child.
KSL-TV contacted the Park City Police Department to verify the report and for comment on the case but had not received a response as of Friday.
"This definitely could have been life or death," Persson said.
He said his son is physically OK, but mentally is struggling with what happened on the mountain.
"I think there is some trauma there," Persson added. "To be able to get out there on his own and show that sort of fortitude. I'm proud of him as a child."
Persson said he wants Deer Valley to review its safety procedures and policies, especially in regard to missing children. He hopes what happened to his family doesn't happen again.
"I think anytime a child is separated from more than a couple minutes, mind you almost 100 minutes, they should call the ski patrol for immediate action," Persson said.