On Sunday January 22, 2012, Christopher Norris skied into the popular Trestle Trees zone on the Mary Jane side of Winter Park ski area. While traversing on low angle terrain, Norris remotely triggered a 40 foot wide avalanche that would eventually run only 30 ft but would have enough power and mass to bury him completely with the exception of a gloved hand that stuck out above the debris reports the Denver Post.
The avalanche occured inbounds and the scene of the incident was open to the skiing public at the time.
Since that tragic day, a wrongful death suit has been filed by Norris’ wife and is now being heard by the Colorado Supreme Court. The case states that the area should have been roped off and ski patrol should have had the foresight to close the area due to the avalanche danger at the time.
However, the Ski Safety Act, which was created in 1979 and amended twice since, seeks to protect ski areas from lawsuits that seek compensation for accidents inherent in skiing.
That said, there is no language about avalanches in the Ski Safety Act. While the court hears arguments, the skiing public and especially Intrawest, who owns Winter Park, wait and see if the court finds out if avalanches are an inherent risk while skiing inbounds at ski resorts.
Are inbounds avalanches an inherent risk while skiing?
For more details on the case, you can read the Denver Post article here here: Colorado Supreme Court weighs avalanche risk in ski-area wrongful-death case