Colorado high court to hear case on inbounds avalanche death.

Colorado high court to hear case on inbounds avalanche death.


Colorado high court to hear case on inbounds avalanche death.



Back in 2012, Christopher Norris was killed in an inbounds avalanche at Winter Park ski area. A court in Colorado ruled inbounds avalanches are an inherent danger of skiing and affirmed that Colorado resorts are protected from avalanche-related litigation under the state Ski Safety Act.

Now the Colorado Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. The high court’s decision to hear the case could change the often-replicated state law that limits resort liability for damages to $250,000 and requires skiers to assume some responsibility on the slopes.

The case was brought by Norris’ widow, Salyndra Fleury, who sued Winter Park operator Intrawest, arguing the resort was negligent in allowing skier access to the north-facing area that day, when the Colorado Avalanche Information Center had warned of “widespread dangerous avalanche conditions” on similar aspects.

Judge Mary Hoak of the Grand County District Court disagreed, ruling the resort did not need to close the run, calling avalanches an inherent risk. The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed her decision, arguing that avalanches “fall neatly into the examples of dangers in the (Ski Safety) Act.”

“An avalanche is neither manmade nor a constant feature on the terrain,” the appeals court wrote. “While Mr. Norris’s death was tragic, Intrawest is not liable under the act. If the General Assembly wishes to hold ski areas accountable for avalanche-related injuries or deaths, it should amend the (Ski Safety) Act.”

The ruling on this case could have repercussions throughout the ski industry. If the court rules that avalanches are not an inherent risk protected under the Ski Safety Act it could mean more terrain closers and slower openings on powder days.

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