Mountains can be unforgiving places, and skiers all across Colorado accept this fact as a necessary evil of “ripping groomers” on a perfect bluebird day. Regardless, skiers still owe each other certain responsibilities when sharing the slopes. Read this article to learn more about your legal obligations as a skier and how an attorney can help if you are injured in a skiing accident.
Table of Contents
- Colorado Ski Safety Act
- Ski Resort Liability
- Skier and Snowboarder Liability
- Skiers’ Legal Responsibilities
- What Should I Do if I am Injured in a Skiing Accident?
- What Damages Can I Recover if I am Injured in a Skiing Accident?
- Injured in a Skiing Accident? We Can Help
<>Colorado Ski Safety Act
The Colorado Ski Safety Act establishes reasonable safety standards and defines the rights and duties of ski area operators and skiers. This law protects ski areas from liability when a skier or snowboarder is injured, or even killed, on the slopes. However, it doesn’t do much to protect the skiers who are hurt despite no fault of their own.
The Act dictates that:
“Each skier expressly accepts and assumes the risk of and all legal responsibility for any injury to person or property resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing.” Colo. Revised Statutes § 33-44-109
Ski Resort Liability
Ski area operators have some legal responsibilities under the Ski Safety Act. However, those duties are mostly relegated to signage and lighting, such as posting conspicuous markings for snow-grooming vehicles and snowmobiles. Graven v. Vail Assocs., 888 P.2d 310, 312 (Colo. App. 1994)
When you purchase a ski pass, you sign a waiver releasing the resort’s liability in the event of an accident. This makes it difficult to sue a ski resort for negligence. As always, there are some exceptions—especially if you are injured while using a chairlift—but most personal injury cases resulting from skiing or snowboard accidents involve a collision between skiers or snowboarders where one person’s negligence caused the accident.
Is a Ski Resort Ever Liable for Your Injuries?
A ski resort may be liable for your injuries under one of two circumstances.
First, the ski resort may be held responsible if your injury did not stem from an inherent danger or risk of skiing. This kind of claim would fall outside the scope of the Colorado Ski Safety Act and under common-law negligence principles.
Second, a ski area may be liable if it violated a provision of the Colorado Ski Safety Act and that violation resulted in your injury. Kumar v. Copper Mt., Inc., 431 F. App’x 736, 737 (10th Cir. 2011)
Skier and Snowboarder Liability
If you were injured in a skiing accident, your personal injury case rests on being able to prove negligence, which is the failure to act with reasonable care. Essentially, you must show the court that another person’s carelessness led to your injury.
The Uphill Skier is Usually at Fault—But Not Always
The Colorado Ski Safety Act places the primary responsibility on the person skiing downhill to avoid colliding with people or objects below him or her. C.R.S. § 33-44-109
Subsequently, Colorado courts will presume the uphill skier was at fault unless he or she shows otherwise by a preponderance of the evidence. Hendrickson v. Doyle, 150 F. Supp. 3d 1233, 1234 (D. Colo. 2015)
Skiers’ Legal Responsibilities
All skiers, whether traveling downhill or uphill, have certain duties on the slope, including:
- knowing the range of their own abilities and skiing within those abilities
- controlling their speed and course at all times
- maintaining a proper lookout in order to avoid other skiers and objects
- using a strap or other device capable of stopping the ski should you become unattached
- staying clear of equipment, vehicles, signs, etc. on the ski slopes and trails
- heeding all posted information and other warnings
- yielding to other skiers when entering a ski slope or trail from the side
C.R.S. § 33-44-109
If you suspect the skier or snowboarder who hit you violated one of these guidelines, then you may have evidence of negligence.
A Colorado Case: One Skier’s Negligence
In February 2017, Anne Norman was skiing the Meadows Run trail on Vail Mountain when she collided with another skier, Laura Howard. The crash severed Anne’s ACL and fractured her knees in multiple places. Laura was uninjured and continued to ski the rest of the day.
Anne sued Laura for negligence. In her complaint filed in an Eagle County district court, Anne alleged that Laura was “skiing recklessly and out of control” when she blindsided Anne from the left and knocked her near a roped-off area of Meadows Run. Anne further alleged that Laura was “a novice and reckless skier with a pronounced inability to control herself on skis.”
Conversely, Laura claimed that Anne was the uphill skier and failed to maintain a proper lookout.
Court Rules in Anne’s Favor
An Eagle County jury determined that Laura was 75 percent negligent in the crash, and Anne was 25 percent negligent. The jury ordered Laura to pay Anne $155,910.87 in damages for both economic and non-economic losses. Norman v. Howard, 2019 Colo. Dist. LEXIS 109, *5
What Should I Do if I am Injured in a Skiing Accident?
After a collision, your first priority should be to seek medical attention for any injuries. However, once you have done that, your next priority should be to retrieve and preserve any evidence.
You can do this by:
- asking friends or family members to take photos of the scene from multiple angles, just as you would after a car accident
- collecting the names and contact information of anyone who witnessed the collision.
- saving any paperwork given to you by ski patrol, as well as any medical paperwork, your ski pass from that day, and the equipment you were using when the collision occurred.
What Damages Can I Recover if I am Injured in a Skiing Accident?
Damages paid in ski accident personal injury cases may include:
- the value of medical bills
- any lost earnings
- pain and suffering associated with the accident.
Injured in a Skiing Accident? We Can Help.
Our personal injury attorneys will assess your situation and help you receive compensation for your injuries if we determine you have a case. Call 303-688-0944 today to begin your free case assessment.