Duties of Ski Area Operators and Skier Liability


Ski liability cases generally fall into one of two categories, cases against other skiers/snowboarders or cases against ski area operators. The laws in Colorado, for example, have separate statutes that govern the liability of skiers versus ski area operators.  Sometimes, both come into consideration.

Summary of Liability of Ski Area Operators in Colorado

Each ski area operator is required to maintain a sign and marking system that is readable and recognizable under conditions of ordinary visibility. If a particular trail or slope or portion of a trail or slope is closed to the public by a ski area operator, such operator shall place a sign notifying the public of that fact at each identified entrance of each portion of the trail or slope involved. Alternatively, such a trail or slope or portion thereof may be closed with ropes or fences. C.R.S. § 33-44-107.

Ski area operators are required to post the following statutory warning:

WARNING: Under Colorado law, a skier assumes the risk of any injury to person or property resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing and may not recover from any ski area operator for any injury resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing, including: Changing weather conditions; existing and changing snow conditions; bare spots; rocks; stumps; trees; collisions with natural objects, man-made objects, or other skiers; variations in terrain; and the failure of skiers to ski within their own abilities.

Summary of Skier/Snowboarder Liability in Colorado.

The same law applies to skiers and snowboarders.  In Colorado, as in most states, 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.  Each skier has the duty to maintain control of his speed and course at all times when skiing and to maintain a proper lookout so as to be able to avoid other skiers and objects. However, the primary duty is on the person skiing downhill to avoid collision with any person or objects below him/her.  C.R.S. § 33-44-109.  Although alcohol is served on the slopes, and marijuana sold in Colorado, skiing or snowboarding while impaired from either substance can create a cause of action for punitive damages against the impaired skier/snowboarder.

It is important to note that statutory liability schemes combine with concepts of ‘negligence,’ in other words, when duties of warning are imposed by statute or assumed by the ski area operator, these duties must be discharged with due care. What constitutes ‘due care’ is often based on industry standards, and the subject of expert testimony that is evidence based.

An example of a duty creating a negligence standard from Colorado law is as follows:

“The ski area operator shall mark hydrants, water pipes, and all other man-made structures on slopes and trails which are not readily visible to skiers under conditions of ordinary visibility from a distance of at least one hundred feet and shall adequately and
appropriately cover such obstructions with a shock-absorbent material that will lessen

Issues of comparative negligence (negligence of skier, eg., skiing too fast for conditions, consumption of alcohol, or even wearing dark lens goggles on an overcast day) also may apply.  As such, these are complex cases and serious injuries with major damages should be entrusted only to a lawyer with the requisite experience.

It is often imperative to get your own investigation before conditions change and evidence is lost.  Immediate action is the best course.

Like any case, there is a ‘grey area’ that is the subject of legal interpretation.  It is important to have an experienced SKI ACCIDENT INJURY ATTORNEY to evaluate your case.   Lawyer James Avery is an expert skier with over 30 years experience in ski accident cases, sought after by injured skiers around the country.  If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a ski accident case, obtain a FREE CASE EVALUATION by completing the form on this page or calling AVERY LAW FIRM now at 303-840-2222.

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