The Colorado Skiing Safety Act: Friend or Foe to Skiers?
The Colorado Skier Safety Act, passed in 1979, has been protecting ski resort owners from lawsuits and soaring insurance costs. The few lawsuits that have moved forward were limited to $250,000 in non-economic damages. The Colorado Ski Safety Act states that skiing is inherently risky, and waivers on season pass holders extend this protection from liability.
In amendments made to the statue in 1990 and 2004, the protection afforded to ski resorts was made even greater by making assumption of the risk a statutory defense, stating that skiers and snowboarders have a duty to ski/snowboard within their abilities, and they assume the inherent dangers and risks of skiing that are part of the sport.
Attitudes may be changing about just how far the protection of the Safety Act should go. In a current wrongful death case against Vail Resorts, the family of Taft Conlin is seeking wrongful death damages and punitive damages. The family claims that Vail Resorts violated Colorado’s Skier Safety Act by not closing the run where their teenage son was killed in an avalanche, and then falsified documents regarding avalanche control measures. Vail Resorts moved to dismiss the case, but the District Court denied the motion, stating that The Colorado Ski Act did not include avalanches within the list of “inherent dangers and risks of skiing.”
Another indication that protecting ski resorts from any and all liability may be a thing of the past is the controversy over waivers. Traditionally, when the Safety Act didn’t apply to limit or bar liability, waivers filled in the gap. Now, however, some are questioning whether these waivers are against public policy, especially since the Safety Act made liability insurance more affordable for ski resorts. Because courts have ruled differently on whether season-pass waivers can or cannot bar a plaintiff from suing, the issue needs to be addressed at the appellate level, warns your Denver injury attorney at Levine Law.
So, if you have been injured on the slopes, do not assume that the Colorado Skier Safety Act or a waiver prevents you from bringing a claim for personal injuries. Contact your Denver injury attorney for a case evaluation. But to avoid injury in the first place, here are some skiing safety tips:
- Use proper equipment: make sure your ski boots are fitted and your bindings adjusted
- Wear a helmet.
- Prepare for the weather: wear layers of clothes and a helmet liner, a hat or headband; wear gloves or mittens and bring an extra pair
- Get proper instruction: take a ski lesson; even experienced skiers can benefit from a refresher now and then
- Wear goggles: make sure they fit properly around your helmet and glasses, if you wear any, or get prescription goggles
- Take breaks: eat and drink enough, and do not push yourself when tired
- Ski with a friend: watch out for each other and pre-arrange a meeting place in case you get separated
- Respect your limits: do not ski trails above your skill level.
- Follow rules and signs regarding trail closing, conditions, etc.
Hopefully, your time on the slopes will be safe and enjoyable. If you do have an accident, however, contact your Denver injury attorney at Levine Law to evaluate whether or not you have a viable claim. Our attorneys are experienced in ski-resort accidents and will be sure your rights are protected.