A highly experienced skier who died after crashing into rocks on Mt Ruapehu had been warned over his high-speed skiing the day before.

Thomas Dobrisek, a 50-year-old skier, paraglider pilot and tool-maker from Wellington died in Waikato Hospital in October last year, seven days after his crash at the Turoa ski and boarding area above Ohakune. From Austria, he had lived in New Zealand for more than 10 years.

He died from a major brain injury suffered in the accident. He had recovered from another severe head injury caused by a cycling accident around 10 years ago.

Peter Hillary helped in the first aid efforts after Thomas Dobrisek's accident at Turoa ski area. Photo / Dean Purcell
Peter Hillary helped in the first aid efforts after Thomas Dobrisek's accident at Turoa ski area. Photo / Dean Purcell

Peter Hillary - son of Sir Edmund, who with Tenzing Norgay, was first to reach the summit of Mt Everest in 1953 - witnessed the accident and was among those who gave first aid to Dobrisek.

Mt Ruapehu. Photo / John Cowpland
Mt Ruapehu. Photo / John Cowpland
Skiing is an inherently dangerous activity and those using the mountain do so at their own risk

The Herald has obtained the WorkSafe NZ report on Dobrisek's accident under the Official Information Act.

It says that on October 10 last year, the day before the accident, there was a complaint about the speed at which Dobrisek and his friend were skiing.

"I spoke with Thomas at lunchtime pointing out that he would either collide and injure someone else or hurt or kill himself," a witness said in a statement mentioned in the WorkSafe report following its inquiries with the staff of Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, the skifield operator.

The report says: "[The friend] was already facing a second sanction for speeding not related to this period, and was to be issued an offenders file notice after being verbally warned. This had not been done at the time."

WorkSafe says Dobrisek, a very experienced skier who was wearing a helmet, was skiing in an area that was "marked as marginal" with signs in two places. As he came over a rise and around a blind corner he lost control and went off the trail onto rocks.

There were no failings on the part of RAL and the industry "has very good guidelines and systems in place".

On October 10, the pair were trying to ski 50km in a day, as measured by a smart-phone tracking application, but the weather prevented them from reaching the goal.

The following day, the friend did not have the app running and Thomas did not have the app on his phone, the friend is quoted as saying in coroner Gordon Matenga's findings.


It was a sunny morning just before 11 when Dobrisek crashed in soft, spring conditions coming out the end of Raceline, a "black diamond" run for advanced skiers and boarders.

Paul McAlister was with Hillary and a third skier on the Giant chairlift when Dobrisek crashed.

Relying on McAlister's description, the coroner said McAlister saw the skier hit a hazard which caused his right leg to lift.

"The skier then appeared to accelerate," Matenga said. "His leg then came back down onto the ground. The skier regained control briefly then went straight ahead and off the ski trail into a rock bed."

McAlister has previously told the Herald that Dobrisek's crashing into a rock caused him to cartwheel up to 20m and he landed in snow.

"His face was head down in the snow. He was unconscious and not breathing."

His rescuers put him into the recovery position and he started breathing. Ski patrollers arrived and looked after Dobrisek, who was later taken by helicopter to hospital.

McAlister told the police he noticed a large melt hole around two rocks where Dobrisek faltered. He believed a thin covering of ice and snow would have formed and that Dobrisek broke through, his ski then hitting a rock, sending him off balance and into his fatal head collision.

WorkSafe said this was an "alternative opinion" to its own inspector's belief that Dobrisek lost traction with the outside ski in a turn "and with the momentum took a direction off the track".

Matenga said: "Skiing is an inherently dangerous activity and those using the mountain do so at their own risk. Mr Dobrisek was an experienced skier and as such would have understood the risks associated with the activity."