Colorado Ski Accident Law in a Nutshell
The Colorado Ski Safety Act is the cornerstone of Colorado ski injury law, describing the duties, rights, and liability of skiers, snowboarders, and ski resort operators. Here are the key aspects of Colorado ski law in a nutshell.
Ski collision lawsuits allowed against negligent skiers and snowboarders?
Lawsuits allowed against negligent ski resort operators?
Yes—for missing or faulty signage and/or a failure to warn.
Yes—for loss of earnings, lost employee benefits, damage to the ability to earn money in the future, loss of time, household expenses, medical and hospital expenses, home and vehicle modification (such as adding a wheelchair ramp, etc.) and other out-of-pocket expenses, permanent injury and disability, physical pain and suffering, physical impairment, mental and emotional pain and suffering, inconvenience, emotional stress, impairment of the quality of life, loss of consortium, loss of affection, loss of lifestyle, loss of society, loss of companionship, loss of the aid and comfort of each other, and/or loss of the enjoyment of life.
Punitive damages available?
Yes. Punitive damages may be awarded in circumstances of fraud, malice, or willful and wanton bad conduct.
Statute of limitations?
Lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of the incident causing the injury, or the claims are forever barred.
Overview of Colorado Ski Injury Law
Under Colorado ski law, skiers and snowboarders must ski within the range of their abilities, maintain a proper lookout, control their speed and course, obey posted warnings, and generally avoid skiing in a manner that could cause injury. Colorado ski accident law does not limit a skier’s right to sue another skier or snowboarder for colliding with and injuring him or her. When a ski collision occurs, the uphill skier is presumed to have had the best opportunity to avoid the collision and is generally held responsible.
Colorado ski law also imposes duties on ski resort operators. For example, operators must provide clear signage regarding the proper use of ski lifts, detailing the difficulty of ski slopes, marking a ski area’s boundaries, and marking man-made structures that are not clearly visible. While a ski area operator may be held liable for injuries resulting from its violations of Colorado ski law, the operator cannot be held liable for injuries resulting from certain inherent dangers and risks of skiing—such as snow conditions, terrain variations, natural objects, and collisions between skiers.
Duties and Liability of Skiers and Snowboarders Under Colorado Ski Law
Under Colorado ski law, skiers and snowboarders must ski within the range of their abilities, maintain a proper lookout, control their speed and course, and obey posted warnings. Skiers and snowboarders must (i) stay clear of all equipment, vehicles, lift towers, and signs, (ii) obey posted warnings and instructions, (iii) not ski on closed slopes, and (iv) not knowingly enter public or private lands next to ski areas.
Skiers and snowboarders also must not ski in a manner that could cause injury to others. Before starting down a ski trail, a skier or snowboarder must avoid any moving skiers already on the trail. Skiers also are prohibited from entering a ski trail while they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Nor may skiers or snow boarders involved in a ski collision where an injury occurs leave the scene of the collision before providing their names and contact information to the ski patrol.
Violations of Colorado ski accident law that cause property damage or injure another skier constitute negligence and could result in a civil lawsuit by the injured person against the negligent skier or snowboarder, as well as criminal prosecution that, if convicted, could result in a fine of up to $1,000.
Duties and Liability of Ski Area Operators Under Colorado Ski Accident Law
Colorado ski injury law requires ski resort operators to maintain an effective and informative signage system for the “protection and instruction” of skiers.
For example, signs must be placed prominently at each chairlift station. Ski slope signage must be visible and readable in ordinary visibility conditions. If applicable, signs must be lighted for nighttime skiers. Before opening a chairlift, a ski area operator must inspect it daily for the presence and visibility of the required signs. Evidence that the required signs were present, visible, and readable before the chairlift opened raises a presumption in favor of the ski resort operator that skiers and snowboarders using the chairlift saw and understood the signs.
Signs must provide information about the difficulty level of each trail and slope, label extreme and freestyle terrain areas, and identify closed trails. Signs notifying skiers and snowboarders about the trail difficulty must be placed at the uphill loading point of each chairlift area and, as a general rule, at or near the beginning of each trail or slope. For chairlifts servicing the most difficult slopes, a warning sign must be posted notifying skiers and snowboarders of the difficulty at or near the chairlift loading point.
Under Colorado ski law, ski resort operators also must mark ski area boundaries and all man-made structures on ski slopes and trails not readily visible to skiers and snowboarders from a distance of at least one hundred feet. But Colorado ski accident law does not require ski area operators to post signs identifying changing weather and snow conditions, natural objects, and/or variations in steepness or terrain because these features are not considered “man-made structures” under Colorado ski accident law.
While notifying skiers and snowboarders about dangerous conditions is not required by Colorado ski law, failing to do so may still cause a ski area operator to be liable for injuries under a different statute, the Colorado Premises Liability Act, if the operator reasonably should have provided a warning. Ski resort operators also must equip vehicles, equipment, and snowmobiles with lights that are visible whenever they are moving on or near a ski slope or trail. If a ski slope is being groomed or maintained while open to the public, the operator must place signs at or near the top of the ski slope warning skiers and snowboarders that such equipment is in use.
Ski area operators, however, have no duty to any skier or snowboarder skiing beyond marked ski area boundaries. Nor do operators have a duty under Colorado ski law to protect skiers and snowboarders from their own inappropriate behavior or another skier’s careless or reckless behavior leading to a collision.
Violations of Colorado ski accident law by a ski area operator causing property damage or injury to a skier or snowboarder constitute negligence by the operator and could result in a civil lawsuit by the injured person or damaged property owner against the operator.
Compensation for Injured Skiers and Snowboarders Under Colorado Ski Law
Colorado ski accident law allows an injured person (and sometimes, the family of a person injured or killed while skiing) to sue for compensation for his or her injuries due to the actions of another skier, snowboarder, or ski area operator. The types of damages recoverable include loss of earnings, lost employee benefits, damage to the ability to earn money in the future, loss of time, household expenses, medical and hospital expenses, home and vehicle modification (such as adding a wheelchair ramp, etc.) and other out-of-pocket expenses, permanent injury and disability, physical pain and suffering, physical impairment, mental and emotional pain and suffering, inconvenience, emotional stress, impairment of the quality of life, loss of consortium, loss of affection, loss of lifestyle, loss of society, loss of companionship, loss of the aid and comfort of each other, and/or loss of the enjoyment of life.
Punitive damages are also available under Colorado ski injury law.
We are experienced Colorado ski injury attorneys. We represent skiers and snowboarders, and the families of skiers and snowboarders, who were seriously injured while skiing or riding chairlifts at Aspen, Arapahoe Basin, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Copper Mountain, Eldora, Keystone, Purgatory, Snowmass, Steamboat, Telluride, Vail, Winter Park, Wolf Creek, and other Colorado ski areas—regardless of whether it was the fault of another skier, snowboarder, or ski resort operator.
If you or your loved one was seriously injured or killed while skiing, snowboarding, or riding a ski lift in Colorado, contact us immediately. Gathering the evidence and interviewing witnesses before they leave the area, or their memories fade, is critical to maximizing your recovery. Time is short. The statute of limitations is running. Call us today.