THE COLORADO SKI SAFETY ACT OF 1979
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When you head out for a day of skiing, you’re probably not worried about the law and whether it protects you. However, you should be aware that the Colorado Ski Safety Act 1979 outlines the responsibilities for skiers and ski operators, who are frequently protected from liability when you are injured in a ski accident.
The ski injury attorneys at Zinda Law Group have experience representing victims receive the compensation they deserve. Call us today at (800) 863-5312 for a free attorney consultation with experienced Colorado ski accident lawyers.
PURPOSE OF COLORADO SKI SAFETY ACT
The Colorado Ski Safety Act was passed in 1979 to establish reasonable safety standards for ski operators and skiers. In 1979, many ski resorts were small, locally owned businesses and legislators were trying to protect these small shops from expensive lawsuits and rising insurance costs. The Act defined the responsibilities of ski area operators, their employees, and the skiers using these areas. This legislation was meant as a compromise to protect resort operators from lawsuits while ensuring the safety of skiers.
Today; however, many ski resort areas are owned by multibillion-dollar real-estate companies. In total, the ski industry in Colorado generates about $4.8 billion in economic output for the state every year. Because of the value and economic benefits the ski sector continues to bring to Colorado, many ski area owners have been shielded from liability.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF SKI AREA OPERATORS
During the 2018-2019 ski season, more than 59 million people visited Colorado ski resorts. With such a large number of skiers, the Colorado Ski Safety Act of 1979 was intended, in part, to keep these skiers safe. Under the Act, ski owners have several requirements and responsibilities to ensure that the ski slopes and surrounding areas are safe. These include the duty to:
Signs can provide instructions for new skiers, alert skiers to hidden dangers, and highlight safety measures that should be obeyed. Signs play an important role at ski resorts, and ski area owners are required to have signs that notify skiers about the difficulty of each slope, closed trails or slopes, and where to unload from ski lifts, chairs, and other tramways.
Mark Man-Made Structures
Ski owners are required to mark hydrants, water pipes, and all other man-made structures on slopes and trails which are not ordinarily visible to skiers. An owner can mark these structures with wooden poles, flags, or signs to signal to skiers to look out for a man-made structure. Owners must also appropriately cover these structures with a shock-absorbent material that will lessen injuries in the event a skier does not see the markers.
Make Vehicles Visible
Whenever a snow grooming vehicle is moving near a ski slope or trail, it must have a light. Likewise, all snowmobiles need to be equipped with lighted head and tail lamps, a braking system, and a fluorescent flag so that they are more visible to skiers.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF SKIERS
Like ski area owners, skiers also have responsibilities under the Colorado Ski Safety Act of 1979. Each skier is required to:
- Ski within their range and ability
- Maintain control over their speed and course
- Refrain from skiing on a closed slope or trail
- Maintain a proper lookout to avoid other skiers and objects
- Avoid snow-grooming equipment, vehicles, lift towers, and signs
- Obey all signs and safety warnings
Read More: Who Is Responsible in a Ski Accident?
INHERENT DANGERS AND RISKS
On average during the ski season, about 10 people are taken to Colorado emergency rooms every day. Each time a skier participates in the sport, they run the risk of being injured because of a built-in risk that is considered to be an inherent part of the sport. As a result, skiers cannot sue ski owners over an injury to themselves or damage to their property that was the result of one of these inherent dangers, which includes:
Changing Weather Conditions
The condition of ski slopes and trails can be inherently dangerous with snow. As the weather changes, they could become more dangerous depending on the amount of snow, ice, hardpack, powder, packed powder, wind pack, corn, crust, slush, cut-up snow, and machine-made snow.
Surface or Subsurface Conditions
Ski slopes and trails may also be dangerous because of bare spots, forest growth, rocks, stumps, streambeds, cliffs, extreme terrain, trees, or other natural objects. Colliding with one of these natural objects is an inherent danger.
Each ski resort will have a different terrain with variations in the steepness and composition of slopes, trails, roads, freestyle areas, jumps, and other areas. Regardless of whether these conditions are the result of the natural formation of the terrain or if they have been groomed, these are considered an inherent risk in skiing.
Collisions with Structures
There is also the possibility that skiers may collide with a man-made structure, such as lift towers, signs, posts, fences or enclosures, hydrants, water pipes, or other man-made structures.
It is important to note that under the Colorado Ski Safety Act of 1979, these dangers and risks do not include the negligence of a ski area operator. Therefore, if a ski operator is found to have violated one of their duties, they may be found liable if a skier was injured because of the operator’s actions.
WAIVERS AND RELEASES OF LIABILITY
Ski resort owners have routinely been able to escape from liability in cases with waivers and releases. In many cases, skiers may not realize that a waiver is printed in small font on the back of their lift tickets or season passes. The language usually notes that a skier will “assume all risks” and agree to hold the ski area “harmless” for “any and all liability claims” including injuries and deaths. Courts have relied on this language to side with ski area operators in many cases.
In 2017, a skier was injured exiting a chair lift after trying to navigate around another skier who had fallen down. The skier was struck by the chairlift and suffered from a broken pelvis. The skier argued that the operator should have slowed down the lift and that he was negligent under the Colorado Ski Safety Act. However, in January 2021, the Colorado Court of Appeals sided with the ski area owners because of both the waiver on her lift ticket and the waiver she had signed over a year before the accident when she purchased a pair of ski boots at the resort.
In Brigance v. Vail Summit Resorts, Inc., a skier was injured after her ski boot was wedged between the ground and the chairlift, making it impossible to unload from the chairlift. While the skier was stuck, the chairlift continued to move forward and her femur was fractured as a result. She argued that the ski lift operator should have stopped the lift. However, because the skier was participating in ski school lessons and had signed a waiver releasing the ski area from liability and her lift ticket contained a waiver, the court sided with the ski area, preventing the skier from recovering any damages for her injuries.
While recent cases have made it more difficult for skiers to prove a ski resort’s negligence, it may still be possible to bring a successful claim, depending on the circumstances of the injury.
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
If you were injured in a ski accident and want to file a lawsuit against a ski operator or its employees, you need to be aware of the time limits, or statutes of limitations, that are in place. Under the Colorado Ski Safety Act of 1979, you have two years from the date of your accident to file a claim for your ski injuries. It is best to contact a Colorado ski injury lawyer as soon as possible to help you navigate the filing timeline and seek the compensation you deserve.
CONTACT A LAWYER WHO HANDLES SKI INJURIES
At Zinda Law Group, our Denver attorneys have helped many victims get the compensation they deserved after suffering an injury. We have the knowledge and resources to put you back on the road to physical, emotional, and financial recovery. We fight for our clients’ right to compensation for hospital bills, pain and suffering, and much more.
We believe an accident victim should never have to worry about being able to afford legal representation. That is why we offer free consultations, and work on a contingency fee basis, so you pay nothing unless we win your case.