Colorado Ski Resort Liability
In a typical year, Colorado’s ski industry supports over 46,000 year-round jobs and has an economic impact of roughly 4.8 billion. The industry’s importance to our state, coupled with the relatively high amount of injuries incurred by skiers, has created a legal landscape in which Colorado ski resorts enjoy broad liability protection from claims pertaining to injuries or deaths on their property. Typically, resorts increase their protection by making skiers sign waivers forgoing the right to sue.
However, no entity is permitted to indemnify itself from its own negligence. Ski accidents in Colorado are governed by C.R.S. §§ 33-44-104, the Ski Safety Act. The act grants ski areas immunity for “injury resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing.” Ski facilities are not immune from the duty to properly maintain ski lifts and equipment, and mark trails. If a resort’s negligence in these areas has caused you injuries, you should contact a Colorado ski injury lawyer as soon as possible for the best chance of recovery.
Injuries Caused by Ski Collisions
In the case of injuries caused by ski collisions, Colorado law holds skiers responsible for skiing within their ability, avoiding reckless behavior that could harm themselves and others, and maintaining a lookout. When a collision occurs, the uphill skier is presumed to be at fault. The dynamics of the collision can often be proven by the injuries involved, and these injuries can unfortunately be extensive. Colorado’s ski laws are written to encompass injuries pertaining to sledding and snowboarding as well.
COMPENSATION FOR SKIER NEGLIGENCE
When a skier is injured by the negligence of another skier, compensation usually comes from homeowner’s or traveler’s insurance policies. In the case of a collision with a young skier who does not own such insurance, it may be possible to recover compensation from a policy belonging to family members.
Skiing & Snowboarding Accidents in Colorado
WHAT’S THE LAW?
Skiing and snowboarding accidents in Colorado are governed by C.R.S. §§ 33-44-104, the Colorado Ski Safety Act of 1979. This act provides eyebrow-raising legal protections to ski resorts and some rather frosty protections to skiers. If you are injured on the slopes in Colorado, your ability to recover compensation for your injuries will depend on how your accident interacts with the provisions of the law.
THE SKI SAFETY ACT
The Ski Safety Act places a great deal of responsibility on skiers to keep themselves and others safe. In summary:
- Skiers must ski within their ability, avoid reckless behavior that could harm themselves and others, and maintaining a lookout.
- When a collision occurs, the uphill skier is presumed to be at fault.
- After a collision, the involved skiers must stop, render aid, and exchange their names, permanent addresses, and identification. Ski patrol must be notified of any injuries, and the involved skiers will be required to provide a statement.
The act states: “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.” However, being crashed into by another skier is not one of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing. Skiing is not hockey. If you are injured by a reckless or out-of-control skier, you may be entitled to compensation from the homeowner’s policy of the skier who hit you. Collisions are responsible for about 5% of skier injuries.
WHERE THINGS CAN GET TRICKY
If you are injured by any other means, things get more tricky. Ski facilities are immune from liability for injuries that are inherent to the sport. Resorts often make skiers sign waivers forgoing the right to sue even in cases of obvious negligence, like equipment malfunction, and these waivers often include intimidating language about the repayment of legal fees. But no entity is permitted to indemnify itself from its own negligence. All ski accident cases require the skill of an experienced ski accident lawyer.
JUST HOW DANGEROUS IS SKIING?
Just how dangerous is skiing? Ski resorts are not required to post their accident and injury rates, and they don’t. However, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has recently shed some light on the subject by compiling emergency department treatment codes. In 2019, there were 8320 emergency room visits in Colorado for ski accident injuries. In a 120 day ski season, that equals 66 ER trips per day. The data is not broken down by resort, however. If you are trying to find the safest slopes, these numbers offer little help.
Some organizations, like Safe Slopes Colorado, are pushing legislators to make resorts provide their safety data. Their argument: If skiers are supposed to bear the responsibility for their injuries, then skiers should also have access to resorts’ safety stats so they can make good choices. It’s hard to argue with that logic. No one is arguing that skiing can or should be completely safe, but greater transparency would motivate resorts to do better. As stated earlier, only about 5% of ski injuries are due to collisions. This implies there is more resorts can do to promote safety.
And of course, there is plenty skiers can do, too. Never drink or smoke pot before you ski! Always take your cell phone and a trail map with you. Take lessons if you need them and keep an eye on the weather. With a little luck you’ll never need us. But if you do, we want to help you.
Steps to Take After a Skiing Accident
After a collision, the Ski Safety Act requires the involved skiers to stop, render aid, and provide their names, permanent addresses, and identification. Not doing so can result in criminal penalties. If there are injuries, ski patrol must be notified and the involved skiers will be required to provide a statement. Ski resorts keep files pertaining to accidents and injuries, but they tend to keep these reports confidential and may not release them without a subpoena from an attorney. This is one more reason that if you have been injured on the slopes by another’s negligence, you will need an experienced Colorado personal injury attorney by your side.
Injured in a Ski Accident?
CALL A PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER
Skiing can be a fun and safe winter activity, provided everyone acts responsibly. If you have suffered injuries as a result of another’s recklessness or negligence, we want to help you.
For a free consultation, call Shafner Law at (303) 796-0555 or fill out the Case Form below.
Additional Ski Accident Resources