Court Rules Inbounds Avalanches are Inherent Risk of Colorado Skiing

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Even if there's no avy warning sign you're not gonna win a suit if you get injured or die in an avalanche in Colorado.
Even if there’s no avy warning sign you’re not gonna win a suit if you get injured or die in an avalanche in Colorado.

Last Thursday, a Colorado court ruled that avalanches within ski resort boundaries are an inherent risk of skiing in Colorado.  Furthermore, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled ski resorts do not have to warn skiers nor close runs, even avalanche risk is high.

What does this mean?  This means that ski resorts are essentially immune from being sued for claims related to avalanche related injures or deaths.

This ruling sets a precedent that will likely influence other states.

This ruling came about via a wrongful death lawsuit related to the 2012 inbounds avalanche death of 28-year-old Christopher Norris.  The day Christopher died, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center warned skiers of “widespread dangerous avalanche conditions.”  They recommend that skiers “enjoy the powder in the safety of the ski area.”

Ski patrol and dog practicing avalanche rescue.
Ski patrol and dog practicing avalanche rescue.

AVALANCHE RULING INFORMATION:

“Grand County District Court Judge Mary C. Hoak ruled the resort wasn’t required to post warning signs or close the run. Avalanches, she said, are an inherent danger of skiing. The appellate court upheld her decision.” – Denver Post

 

“An avalanche is itself a danger resulting from certain conditions of snow, and the degree of danger is affected by ‘changing weather conditions’ across ‘variations of steepness and terrain, we thus construe the definition of inherent dangers and risks of skiing … to include an avalanche.” – the majority wrote

 

“If the General Assembly wishes to hold ski areas accountable for avalanche-related injuries or deaths, it should amend the act.” Judge Mary C. Hoak wrote

 

“It is not as if avalanches are unheard-of occurrences in mountainous areas, or even on or near ski areas.  And yet the General Assembly — despite formulating a lengthy definition identifying numerous specific conditions and events — did not expressly (or otherwise clearly) include avalanches.” – Jerry Jones, attorney of Christopher’s family


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