Understanding a Ski Resort’s Liability for Skiing Accidents

Understanding a Ski Resort’s

It is no surprise to a skier (or snowboarder) that there are risks of injury when participating in skiing. Traveling down a slope on skis, often at a high rate of speed, amid surface conditions that are likely to have patches of ice can certainly be considered risky. The majority of injuries that occur while skiing involves skiers colliding with other skiers or with objects, and skier injuries associated with the usage of ski lifts. The skiing industry in Colorado is a major driver of economic activity. According to a non-profit trade association known as the Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA), the industry generates between $2.5 and $3 Billion for the state’s economy.

In 1979 the state of Colorado implemented the Ski Safety Act, which established clear guidelines relating to both the responsibilities of ski operators and skiers. This legislation defined and implemented standards of the rights and liabilities of all parties. The Ski Safety Act (SSA) is summed up by first recognizing that there are inherent dangers in downhill skiing, regardless of the safety measures and provisions that exist.

Some of the standards that the SSA explains are the duties of passengers that are using the ski lifts (aka tramways) including:

  • Passengers must have the agility, ability, and knowledge to use the lift safely.
  • They may not toss any objects while riding.
  • Passengers must follow any written or verbal instructions provided to them.

The ski area operators are required to adhere to a host of responsibilities for posting signs, notices, and warnings, some of which include:

  • The maximum number of passengers and weight for a chair lift.
  • Classify all slopes based on degree of difficulty and have color-coded signs clearly indicating as follows:
    • Green: beginner level
    • Blue: intermediate level
    • Black: advanced level
  • Any slopes which are closed must be clearly marked, and many others…

A critical aspect of the SSA is how it assigns liability stemming from accidents, injuries etc. Some of the key guidelines are:

  • The skier assumes the risks of any inherent dangers which may result from volatile weather conditions, the condition of the slope’s surface, impact with items such as rocks, stumps, trees, man-made objects, other skiers etc…
  • The amount of damages that a ski area operator could be liable for has limits:
    • $1 million is the maximum liability for standard economic damages, healthcare bills, lost wages etc.
    • Liability is capped at $250,000 for noneconomic damages.
  • The SSA does not apply in “skier” vs “skier” accident cases.

A 2016 Denver Post reported that the Colorado Supreme Court voted 5-2 affirming that ski resort operators are not liable for recent accidents and deaths which occurred amid avalanches at several resorts. Avalanches are not specifically addressed in the SSA; however, the ruling stated that avalanches are considered among the inherent dangers and risks that skiers may encounter.

The Law Office of Jeremy Rosenthal aggressively pursues compensation for Colorado injury victims. Those coping with severe repercussions from an accident are encouraged to contact our office today to discuss your case. We will work tirelessly on your behalf to obtain justice.

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