The Original Ski Lawyers

Jim Chalat

In 1980, after the first version of the Colorado Ski Safety Act was passed, the editor of the Colorado Lawyer (the Colorado Bar Association’s monthly law journal) asked me to write an article summarizing the statute.  Chalat, “Ski Tips for Attorneys,” 9 Colo. Law. 452 (Mar. 1980).  That article led to a phone call from the great Colorado lawyer, Walter L. Gerash. Walter had a skier versus skier case and wanted my help as co-counsel.  I tried that case with Walter and against the most experienced ski accident defense attorney in Colorado, Mr. Stephen K. Gerdes, of White & Steele, PC. Gray v. Houlton, 671 P.2d 443 (1983).

Two years later, on December 15, 1983, the Keystone Teller lift (renamed the “Ruby” lift) suffered a catastrophic failure of its upper bull-wheel, killing 2 and injuring 49 passengers.  I was retained by 6 of the injured skiers and worked as a lead lawyer on the multi-district litigation. I teamed up with 8 other lawyers who collectively represented all the injured passengers and the families of the two dead. We sued Keystone, the Teller lift manufacturer, and the Passenger Tramway Board.  The case settled just before trial. Many of those lawyers, as well as some of the Keystone defense counsel, remain professional friends even today. 

Since then, I have written articles for law journals and testified at each hearing at which the Ski Safety Act came up for amendment before the Colorado General Assembly.  Ski cases, primarily skier collision cases remain a niche practice area within our law firm. I have successfully represented 100’s of skiers in their accident claims for injured skiers and ski lift passengers, including taking several record verdicts and settlements.  My clients are of all ages, range in ability level from Olympic level skiers, to beginners, are of all ages and hail from across the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  I have handled ski cases across the Rocky Mountain states, California, Nevada, Virginia, New York and in the upper Midwest.

Evan Banker

Evan Banker believes his practice of ski law is merely enforcing the rules of etiquette widely understood by skiers and boarders – the uphill skier has right of way, look uphill before you merge or start from a stopped position, don’t stand where you’re not visible from above.

Evan Banker grew up skiing on the east coast, primarily at Stowe, Vermont. He served as a volunteer ski patroller at his local hill, Campgaw Mountain in Ramapo, New Jersey. Evan’s love for mountain sports made Colorado a natural choice for law school.

He earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, where he represented low-income plaintiffs in the school’s legal clinic and competed in ABA sponsored national appellate advocacy competitions, receiving special recognition for his writing. Before graduating, he gained experience working with the Hon. Robert S. Hyatt and with a major Denver civil defense firm. Evan joined Chalat Hatten & Banker as an associate after his admission to the Colorado Bar, and became a partner in 2012 after four years with the firm.

Evan remains an avid skier and leans on his personal experience on the mountain to develop his client’s cases. He is able to visit the site of any ski incident in any terrain to help understand and tell his client’s story.

Evan has secured numerous successful settlements for his clients, and where settlement was not possible, verdicts in his clients’ favor.

Russell Hatten

Russell Hatten is a partner of Chalat Hatten & Banker and has practiced Colorado law with the firm since 1999. He began his legal career as a litigator in Texas in 1986. He started his own plaintiff’s personal injury law firm in 1988 and, in 1993, he was appointed to the bench as Municipal Judge for the City of Rowlett, Texas and as a County Magistrate for Dallas and Rockwall Counties, Texas. While on the bench, Mr. Hatten heard criminal, domestic, and civil matters. He continued his plaintiffs’ personal injury practice when he moved to Colorado and joined the Chalat Law firm. He has been recognized by Best Lawyers each year since the 2019 edition. Mr. Hatten has also been selected for the Colorado Super Lawyers list every year since 2008. He has also earned a “BV” (distinguished rating) by Martindale-Hubbell®, the authoritative resource for information on the worldwide legal profession. Attorneys with a BV® Distinguished™ Rating from Martindale-Hubbell® are those that have been recognized by their peers to be the best in both legal ability and ethical practice. He has been an active member for many years in the Rhone Brackett Inn of Court, a chartered chapter of the American Inns of Court in Denver, comprised of judges, attorneys, and law students dedicated to professionalism and collegiality.