Op-Ed: The Last Thing Colorado Ski Areas Need Is More Legal Vulnerability

Op-Ed: The Last Thing Colorado Ski Areas Need Is More Legal Vulnerability

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Op-Ed: The Last Thing Colorado Ski Areas Need Is More Legal Vulnerability

Never a good sight… | Photo: bradleypjohnson | Cover Photo: Roland Tanglao

Over the past month, publications across Colorado have condemned the state of ski area liability, arguing that skier’s aren’t getting a fair shake when it comes to their own safety.

Related: Colorado Ski Resort Safety and Why Politicians Aren’t Trying to Improve It

They’ve even gone so far as to recommend state reps amend Colorado’s Ski Safety Act to favor the skiing public over the ski areas themselves. The Summit Daily headline sums up that position perfectly: ” The problem with this argument? It requires a “chicken or the egg” answer that completely ignores the dangerous nature of the skiing.

Lawyers and reporters are asking the pointless question: which came first… “the ski area or the skiing-related injury?”

Every lifelong skier will tell you the sport they love is dangerous and more often than not– involves injuries at some point down the fall line. Worst case scenario– skiing has the potential to take a life. When that happens the ski world typically responds with grace and compassion but as the Summit Daily points out in their three-part series Whiteout— sometimes the ball gets dropped.

But before laws get amended and ski resorts become more legally vulnerable, we might want to consider the future of our gracious industry; an industry whose future relies on mom and pop ski areas without armies of attorneys at their disposal.

When The Summit Daily Editorial Board says that ski areas are creating a “culture of concealment” or fail to “take public safety seriously,” they’re not considering how human the business of skiing truly is.

“No skier may make any claim against or recover from any ski area operator for injury resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing.”Ski Safety Act

When injuries happen at a resort, the ski area itself is often more intimately involved with the victim than anyone else. Ski Patrollers become fast friends over the course of broken bones. Prompt sled rides down the mountain lead to quality care from nurses who are “sure this isn’t the first time this has happened.” And while sometimes family members and friends are left in the dark and communication channels break down– that doesn’t mean ski areas are behind some conspiracy to hide the inherent danger of their favorite sport.

5 deaths occurred during the 2016/2017 season @Breckenridge | Photo: Jarrod Doll

The Ski Safety Act’s legal language reflects that fact– skiing is dangerous. So why change a legal document that’s already covered the obvious fact that skiing is a risky sport?

The reason is money. With new data in hand, Lawyers would be able to capitalize on new injuries while small and big ski areas alike would suffer deadly financial blow after deadly financial blow. All the while deserving and undeserving victims would get compensated equally. Sound fair? I didn’t think so.

Instead of blaming ski areas, maybe we should ask ourselves before signing that release form: “is this goofy sport we love is something we’d risk our lives to keep?” For skiers and riders who love skiing and riding, the answer is obvious– “of course we would.” 

This article was written in response to The Summit Daily Article here: Hold Colorado’s ski industry accountable on death, injury data

 

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