In Colorado, avalanches within the bounds of a ski resort have been legally declared an “inherent danger and risk of skiing.” While that may not seem like much of a stretch at first, the fact that the Colorado Supreme Court issued this ruling has a significant effect for skiers throughout the state. Now, if you are hurt or a loved one is killed due to an avalanche at a ski resort, you cannot sue the resort. A section of Colorado’s Ski Safety Act is now interpreted as prohibiting wrongful death or personal injury lawsuits in these situations.
Did This Actually Change Anything?
If you’re on a ski slope and you’re injured due to a hazard or condition that was negligently created or that should have been marked, you can often file a lawsuit to recover money from the careless party that caused the unsafe condition.
However, the Ski Safety Act contains a provision that disallows legal claims for injuries caused by “snow conditions as they exist or may change.” In the past, it was unclear whether that language applied to avalanches that occur on in-bounds ski areas. Due to this ambiguity, a woman sued Intrawest Winter Park after her husband was killed during an in-bounds avalanche at the resort. The case was tied up in various courts for quite some time, as courts differed on whether avalanches such as the one in this case were covered by the language of the Ski Safety Act.
Finally, the Colorado Supreme Court issued a ruling earlier this year, clarifying that in-bounds avalanches are included in the “snow conditions as they exist or may change” listed in the law. The woman was, unfortunately, out of luck and could not recover damages for the wrongful death of her husband.
What Does This Mean For Skiers And Snowboarders?
While the law is now quite clear on this exception to when you may seek monetary awards for injuries and death, it has not eliminated the other responsibilities that ski resorts must meet. If you are injured on a ski slope due to someone else’s carelessness or reckless actions (or inaction), you should still speak with an attorney to see what legal options are available to you.