Colorado Court Rules Inbounds Avalanches Are Inherent Risk of Skiing

Colorado Court Rules Inbounds Avalanches Are Inherent Risk of Skiing

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Colorado Court Rules Inbounds Avalanches Are Inherent Risk of Skiing

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Ski in Avalanche [Image by Ivan Chudakov via Shutterstock]

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that avalanches within the boundaries of open runs at Colorado ski resorts are an inherent danger. The ruling is the first of its kind in the nation. The 2-1 decision is likely to influence courts in other states.

The 2-1 decision, which immunizes resorts from claims after avalanche-related deaths or injuries, is the first of its kind in the country, said Jim Chalat, a Colorado ski attorney. He said the decision is likely to influence courts in other states with similar ski-safety laws.

The Colorado ski-safety act currently does not specifically refer to avalanches but it does include changing snow and weather conditions a “inherent dangers” of the sport.

“An avalanche is itself a danger resulting from certain conditions of snow, and the degree of danger is affected by ‘changing weather conditions’ across ‘variations of steepness and terrain,’ ” the majority wrote. “We thus construe the definition of inherent dangers and risks of skiing … to include an avalanche.”

The ruling came as the result of a wrongful-death suit was brought by the wife of Christopher Norris, a 28-year-old who died in an inbounds avalanche in at Winter Park.

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