What is an Inherent Risk of Skiing? The Question is Far from Settled…

In earlier posts, I’ve covered the litigation that played out in Colorado arising out of recent avalanche deaths that occurred withing ski area boundaries.  These were cases of first impression and they broke new legal ground.

Image result for avalanche area

You might recall, that despite the fact that avalanches are not enumerated as a specific hazard under the Colorado Ski Safety Act, this summer, the Colorado State Supreme Court ruled that in-bounds avalanches are an inherent risk of skiing.  The Court stretched the interpretation of snow conditions to infer that the statute also intended to include avalanches.  This finding relieved Colorado ski areas from liability for injuries or deaths caused by in-bounds avalanches.

I came across this interesting article about one of the cases here:

Now that ski season in North America is up and running and snow is falling, the implications of last summer’s ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court will be interesting to following.  Now that Colorado ski areas are immune from avalanche liability withing the ski area boundaries, there could be huge changes in how they manage that hazard.  Whether we see less snow safety mitigation is yet to be seen.  I only hope that does not become an unintended consequence of the ruling.

I am fairly certain we will see updates to ski Safety/immunity statutes around the country over the next few years that codify the Colorado Court’s holding.  How broadly other states are willing to define the “inherent risks or skiing” is not yet known.  But, this trend catches hold, it represents a shifting of the burden of safety from the ski area to the skier.

What this means for skiers is that they are now responsible for a much more sophisticated level of safety awareness on the hill.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure the average skiing public is ready for this.