Colorado Ski Law
HAVE YOU BEEN INJURED WHILE SKIING IN COLORADO?
If you were injured in a skiing, snowboarding, or ski lift accident in Colorado, we may be able to help you recover money damages against the wrongdoer. We have represented injured skiers and snowboarders in Colorado for over 35 years.
The senior partner in the firm, Jim Chalat, has been a leader in the field, publishing numerous articles and case notes regarding ski law. A small newsletter titled “Ski Safety News,” was a precursor to later online publications. Jim also authored the authoritative summaries in American Jurisprudence (“AmJur”) Chalat, “Liability of Skier for Collision with Another Skier,” 46 Am Jur Proof of Facts 3d 1. Chalat, “Liability of Ski Area Operator for Skiing Accident,” 45 Am Jur Proof of Facts 3d 115.
Chalat has also led Continuing Legal Education classes in Colorado recreational accident law. He has also lectured at the Harvard Law School. The slide deck for that lecture is linked here.
Chalat has been lead counsel in numerous precedent setting skier accident cases. These include skier collision cases, lift accident cases, ski area operator snowmobile versus skier cases, and in litigating issues relating to waivers and releases which are now incorporated into season lift passes and lift tickets.
Chalat Hatten & Banker, PC is the most experienced Colorado law firm in ski cases.
Keep reading on this page for help in understanding Colorado ski law and for insights gained from our experience. Several of our articles and notes are attached if you wish to dig deeper. If you choose to call us for a no-obligation/free consultation, please fill out and submit a contact form or call us on our main line at 303.861.1042. We will listen to your story and help you if we can. If it is an emergency, please call Jim Chalat on his cell at 303.882.4781. If he cannot pick up right away, he will forward your message to a partner at the firm. All the lawyers in the firm have extensive experience in representing injured skiers or snowboarders. The consultation is free, even if it is time-consuming and if we need to read records you have about the possible case. We are accessible to answer your questions even if you aren’t sure yet if you want to hire a lawyer; or if you want to hire other lawyers. The choice of your lawyer is solely your decision.
cOLORADO SKI LAW HIGHLIGHTS
- The Colorado Ski Safety Act CRS 33-44-101 et seq., (“SSA”) was enacted in 1979 and was intended to protect ski area operators from lawsuits by skiers against ski area operators where injuries were the result of the “inherent dangers of skiing.” Ski area operators are not responsible for injuries to customers due to the “inherent dangers of skiing.” CRS § 33-44-103(3.5).
- The SSA set common sense safety standards for skiers and ski area operators. A violation by any skier of the statutory safety standard, including in the maintenance and operation of ski lifts, is in § 104 of the SSA as actionable negligence. In the operation of its lifts and tows ski areas were held, by the Colorado Supreme Court, to owe the highest duty of care in connection with its operation and maintenance of its lifts and tows.
- Skier collision cases are controlled by §109 of the SSA. That section reads: “Notwithstanding any provision of law or statute to the contrary, the risk of a skier/skier collision is neither an inherent risk nor a risk assumed by a skier in an action by one skier against another. … the primary duty shall be on the person skiing downhill to avoid collision with any person or objects below him.” This section establishes as a statutory or “per se” standard of care that, in most cases, the downhill skier has the right of way.
- Colorado law explicitly states that nothing in the law shall be construed to limit the liability of the ski area operator for injury caused by the use or operation of ski lifts. C.R.S. § 33-44-103(3.5). But, a recent Colorado Court of Appeals decisions holds that an Operator of a ski area can protect themselves from said liability with a waiver. Redden v. Clear Creek Skiing Corp., 2020 COA 176, 50, cert. denied, 21SC94, 2021 WL 4099429 (Colo. Sept. 7, 2021).
Colorado Ski Law history
- Skier Collision cases were the first ski liability cases to come before Colorado courts.
- Jim’s 1998 Ski Law article covers the history of the field and is linked here.
Colorado CHARLIFT accident Law
If you have been injured while loading, unloading or riding a chairlift or rope tow, you may be able to recover monetary compensation for your injuries.
Colorado law explicitly states that nothing in the law shall be construed to limit the liability of the ski area operator for injury caused by the use or operation of ski lifts. But, an Operator of a ski area can protect themselves from said liability with a waiver.
Are skier/snowboarder collision cases barred by waiver?
Typically not. The ski pass waiver and/or assumption of risk language on a lift ticket do not immunize other skiers or riders from liability. Except in the rare case where you are run down by a ski area employee in the course of his/her duties, the liability waiver on your season pass or the assumption of risk language on your lift ticket do not protect the other skier from responsibility and liability.
Can claims against the Operators of a ski area be barred by waiver?
Colorado courts will enforce clauses releasing parties from liability for injury or damages so long as the clause is not contrary to public policy. Generally, specific agreements absolving participants and proprietors from negligence liability during hazardous recreational activities, such as skiing or snowboarding, are enforceable, subject to willful misconduct limitations.
But, even in cases where you signed a season pass, you may not have waived all of your rights. For example, the language of a waiver must specifically address the circumstances of your injury and, thereby show that you were specifically made aware of and agreed to assume this risk. To see whether or not you might have a claim for your ski lift accident, call or email now for a free consultation. We are always happy to answer your questions even if you aren’t sure yet if you want to hire a lawyer.
How do you prove fault?
You can help us in the early stages with the evidence in the case. Here are some items that are helpful:
- Your lift pass, and your lift pass scan data for the day in question. These may help us establish the timing of your last lift up, and to determine speed and location relative to the other party involved.
- Any photos or mobile phone data, such as tracking data, times of calls, texts.
- Preserve your clothing and equipment worn at the time of the collision. Usually the skis or board on which you were riding will have gouges, marks or damage which establish the relative positions and direction of travel of the parties involved.
- Any medical records, such as discharge summaries, CD’s with x-rays or scan data.
- The exchange of information form from Ski Patrol with the other party’s name, address, and contacts.
- Any ski patrol incident report forms which you get from Ski Patrol.
- The trail map for the area at which the incident occurred.
- Names and contact details of any witness who came forward and indicated that they had observed the accident.
Usually sooner is better than later, so that we can get evidence which is still fresh and before people move or become unavailable. The statute of limitations is a technical legal term for the deadline by which a lawsuit must be filed, or the claims are barred as untimely. The statute of limitations for a ski case is typically two years.
Venue and Jurisdiction
Typically, we bring collision cases in Colorado State District Courts. For instance, an accident at Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper Mountain, or A-Basin would be brought in the Summit County District Court. An accident at Vail or Beaver Creek would be filed in Eagle County District Court. An accident at the Aspens would be filed in Pitkin County District Court.
In addition to the basics of skiing in control, avoiding collisions with things or people, keeping a lookout, here are some basic safety considerations for skiers and riders:
- Inspect your equipment. Your bindings should be adjusted professionally and serviced before the season. If you want to do this yourself, know what your correct DIN setting should be, be sure that your boots can releaser properly at the correct forward pressure and twist. Some professionals make sure they can kick out of their bindings to test the release function.
- Be sure to wear your glasses or contacts if you need them to see distances. Our rule is that if a person’s driver’s license is restricted for glasses while driving, a reasonable skier or snowboarder should wear his or her correction when skiing or riding. Acquire and wear goggles or, when appropriate, high altitude protective sunglasses with an adequate UV, polarizing and other safety standards.
- Wear clothes that enhance your visibility. White pants with a forest green parka is not an ideal outfit. You want to stand out; not blend into the background.
- Improve your fitness and your skill. Stay in shape to ski or ride. Take a lesson and work on your form, skill, turns, and control.
- Carry the most basic 1st aid gear. Carry your phone. Dial 911 if you need ski patrol. Most ski area ski patrol dispatch stations will get a forward from 911 if the caller identifies him or herself as at a ski area with an injury or other matter calling for attention.
Snowboarders, in addition to the above:
- The front foot should be attached to the board by the leash.
- Backside turns: look behind you and check your blind spot.
- Kneel or stand facing up the hill when stopped on a run; stay to the side of the trail.
- When riding a lift, detach your rear foot.
All Skiers and riders:
- Consideration of the other Skiers: Every skier has to behave in a way he or she doesn’t endanger or damage any other skier or snowboarder.
- Controlling of speed and way of skiing: Every skier has to ski on sight. He has to adapt his speed and way of skiing to his
- abilities and the conditions of the terrain, the snow and the weather as to the traffic density.
- Choice of track: The skier coming from behind another has to choose his track so that skiers before him won’t be endangered.
- Overtaking: Overtaking is allowed from above or below, from right or left but always with a distance so that the skier being overtaken has space enough for all his/her movements. Snowboarders be aware of your blind sport (left side for regular, right side for goofy) and check before making any maneuver.