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Colorado appeals court says ski areas not liable for inbounds avalanches

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Flags mark the spot where Christopher Norris died in an inbounds avalanche on open terrain at Winter Park Ski Area on January 22, 2012. Photo courtesy CAIC.

Ruling broadens ski industry immunity
 to lawsuits

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Skiers and snowboarders in Colorado may want to start carrying their avalanche gear at developed resorts, after an appeals court ruled last week that avalanches are one of the many inherent risks of skiing on lift-served terrain.

The Colorado Court of Appeals decision (announced Feb. 13) stems from a deadly January 22, 2012 avalanche at Winter Park resort, when Christopher Norris died while skiing an open, inbounds run at Winter Park known as Trestle Trees. As it stands, the ruling broadens the almost unprecedented immunity that ski resorts have from being held liable for accidents, including inbounds avalanches. Continue reading

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Skiing: Courts define limits of season pass liability waivers

The extent of season pass liability waivers are being tested in Colorado courts. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Judges rule that waivers don’t exempt ski areas from meeting requirements of the Ski Safety Act

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY —Judges in Colorado ski towns are starting to carve out a little bit of room for skiers to claim damages when ski areas are found to violate specific provisions of the Ski Safety Act.

At issue are the broad liability waivers that skiers and snowboarders sign when they purchase season passes. Daily lift tickets also include a waiver, but the season pass waivers have included an additional liability waiver under which pass holders give up their rights to sue for negligence.

Resorts have consistently used to waivers to counter lawsuits, asserting they are protected from most claims by boilerplate waiver language like this:

“The Undersigned expressly ASSUME ALL RISKS associated with Holder’s participation in the Activity, known or unknown, inherent or otherwise … “

It’s that added layer of legal insulation that’s being challenged in court, and on May 10, Pitkin County District Court Judge Denise Lynch ruled that the waiver doesn’t protect the Aspen Skiing Company from claims made by Ryan Bradley, who was injured Feb. 20, 2010 when he was hit by a jake table, installed on a chairlift to transport injured skiers. Continue reading

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