Parents Push for Colorado Chairlift Safety

Parents have joined forces to urge Colorado lawmakers to be aggressive towards the legislation renewing the Colorado Passenger Tramway Board into 2030. Parents want more flexibility to safeguard the state’s chairlifts. Lisa Wilder, a parent and ski safety advocate and other parents of skiing children, are pressuring lawmakers to be stricter with the board that governs chairlift safety. Parents want the board to be more thorough in tracking chairlift injuries and disciplining ski resorts who don’t meet safety standards.

In recent years, there have been numerous chairlift accidents involving children. Just recently a 6-year-old fell from a chairlift in Eldora and in 2016 a Texas mom died after she was thrown from a chairlift at Granby Ranch. Wilder testified in March before the Colorado Senate’s Local Government Committee and urged lawmakers to require lift operators to record injuries during loading and unloading, not just falls from chairlifts. Wilder expressed, “The loading and unloading is the most dangerous and everyone knows that and its especially dangerous for children.”

In Fall 2018, DORA’s sunset review of the tramway board, noted 542 incidents in the lifts they oversee between the 2012-2013 season and the 2016-2017 season. The Board identified 9,474 deficiencies during 3,876 inspections in that five-season span. DORA only took a total of 20 disciplinary actions, 16 of which were “letters of admonition.”

Attorney Jim Chalat has long represented skiers injured at resorts. With more than 30 years of experience in ski law, Jim has joined the group of parents in lobbying for amendments to the board’s authorizing legislation. Chalat sent a letter to lawmakers to consider an amendment that rejects ski resorts’ liability requirements. Chalat believes that, “waivers that release a resort from liability in case of an accident, undermine safety systems imposed by both the Tramway Board and the Colorado Ski Safety Act.” Both the Board and the Act require resorts to assume some responsibility for safety.

For more details and progress on this issue visit:

Is Resort Skiing More Dangerous?

Summit County community members gathered in late January, to discuss safety on the slopes. The discussion was led by the Alliance for Skier and Snowboarder Responsibility. The group was recently founded and is dedicated to helping skiers and snowboarders adhere to their responsibilities regarding safety while on the mountain.

Founder Katherine Jeter, a resident of Summit County and lifetime skier said, “This is kind of the first of it’s kind.” The group spent the last year assessing the lay of the land and familiarizing themselves with organizations with a similar mission. Jeter expressed that other groups were more focused on the resorts and what the resorts could do to enforce and create safety regulations. The Alliance for Skier and Snowboarder Responsibility focuses on the idea that skiers and riders have a responsibility to each other. It starts with self to create a safer environment.

The organization was formed after Jeter was in an accident at Copper Mountain in 2017. A snowboarder crashed into her and she sustained severe injuries. While at Castle Peak Rehabilitation Center, she met Patrish Koenig, another skier who sustained severe injuries after a collision with a hit-and-run skier at Vail Resort. After sharing each other’s experiences, they decided it was time for change.

The Alliance for Skier and Snowboarder Responsibility met for the first time in March 2018. The group includes ski patrollers, resort ambassadors, mountain enthusiasts and more. The members discussed skier education, substance abuse, enforcement of rules on the slope and respect for fellow skiers and boarders, as the most important issues surrounding skier safety. They discussed in detail issues, such as speeding, lack of awareness and control, substance abuse and distractions (taking photos and head phones).

The organization is still in its early stages, but its members have ideas and recommendations that they believe will help bring awareness to ski safety and reducing injuries on the mountain. They hope this meeting is the first of many and that they can provide informative resources and training to ski resort employees, volunteers, skiers and snowboarders about ski safety in the future.

Vail Not Liable for Death

A six-year legal battle by a family who lost their son ended yesterday with a jury verdict in favor of Vail Resorts. Thirteen-year-old Taft Colin was killed at Vail Mountain on Jan. 22, 2012 by an in-bounds avalanche. His parents filed a lawsuit against Vail.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that under Colorado’s Skier Safety Act, in-bounds avalanches are an inherent risk of skiing. The claim against Vail in Colin’s case was then restated as a claim for negligence rather than wrongful death. The family argued that Vail Resorts was negligent when it did not adequately warn skiers at the lower gate to Prima Cornice that the run was closed above the gate. Ski patrollers had closed Prima Cornice’s upper gate. The jury found that Vail had not violated the Colorado Ski Safety Act. To read more of the analysis, Taft Conlin Case comment letter by Jim Chalat.

Litigating Recreational Accidents from the Plaintiffs’ Perspective

Jim Chalat presented as a faculty member at the 35th Annual National CLE Conference – Civil Litigation at Vail, Colorado on January 3-7, 2018. His presentation reviews recreational accident claims with an emphasis on ski accidents and ski law. The presentation is a 61-page pdf file, if you wish to have a copy please email a request