Skiing Safe: 5 Tips for Handling Liability on the Slopes!

As Colorado is facing another big snow storm.  I can't help but think that I'd much rather be skiing than having to shovel THIS again: 
This year, though, I am acutely aware of the legal implications of heading out for that special day in the snow. You know, the fresh tracks... the warm lodge for lunch... the beautiful scenery.  Oh, and those other skiers and snowboarders, yeah, not so much.  I spend most of my time on the slopes trying to find places where others are not skiing, but somehow the large crowds inevitably find me.  Whether it's at the bottom of the slope when I finally HAVE to come down for the last run of the day, or in my perfect tree run when someone cuts across my line mid-turn... collisions sometimes just HAPPEN.  But who is to blame?  The next time someone threatens to sue you on the slopes, maybe you should refer them to Title 33 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, specifically C.R.S. 33-44-109
Basically, you assume the risk of injury when you step on the slopes, for the most part. BUT if there is a collision, you may still be able to recover damages from the other skier; not so much from the resort, though.
(1) Each skier solely has the responsibility for knowing the range of his own ability to negotiate any ski slope or trail and to ski within the limits of such ability. Each skier expressly accepts and assumes the risk of and all legal responsibility for any injury to person or property resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing; except that a skier is not precluded under this article from suing another skier for any injury to person or property resulting from such other skier's acts or omissions. Notwithstanding any provision of law or statute to the contrary, the risk of a skier/skier collision is neither an inherent risk nor a risk assumed by a skier in an action by one skier against another.(2) Each skier has the duty to maintain control of his speed and course at all times when skiing and to maintain a proper lookout so as to be able to avoid other skiers and objects. However, the primary duty shall be on the person skiing downhill to avoid collision with any person or objects below him.

Oh, and did you also know that you have an obligation to leave your information in the event of a collision involving injury, just as if it were an auto accident? 
(10) No skier involved in a collision with another skier or person in which an injury results shall leave the vicinity of the collision before giving his or her name and current address to an employee of the ski area operator or a member of the ski patrol, except for the purpose of securing aid for a person injured in the collision; in which event the person so leaving the scene of the collision shall give his or her name and current address as required by this subsection (10) after securing such aid.
The Denver Post ran a three part series about the ability of persons injured at a ski resort to collect damages from the resorts back in 2013.  The results would surprise many people. Not only does Colorado have the Colorado Ski and Safety Act, but the resorts located in Colorado often have mandatory, lengthy, legal disclaimers and waivers contained in each and every lift ticket or season pass purchase.  I know I'm probably one of the few that has read the waiver, and even I can't recall much of it now.  In law, that's called a contract of adhesion: A contract of adhesion refers to a contract drafted by one party in a position of power, leaving the weaker party to “take it or leave it.”Adhesion contracts are generally created by businesses providing goods or services in which the customer must either sign the boilerplate contract or seek services elsewhere.  In Colorado, that leaves you with the much more dangerous alternative of back-country skiing (that's a topic for another post, though). 
I encourage any folks enjoying winter sports to recognize that there are legal rights and obligations in any activity, but especially where there is a possibility people can get hurt.  In the event of injury, the following bits of advice may help: 
  1. Do report the incident to ski area employees. Get the name and contact information for the person you reported the incident to. 
  2. Do not give an interview or go into specific facts about the incident when reporting it, and especially do not give a recorded interview. 
  3. Be respectful, but do not admit liability or sign a post-injury waiver or any other documentation without consulting a lawyer.
  4. If the ski area is at fault for the injury, be respectful, but consult an attorney knowledgeable in skier law. 
  5. Pay attention to all signage, getting photos whenever possible, and keep copies of all ski pass/ lift ticket waivers utilized at the time of the injury.
For the full text of the Denver Post article (and some very interesting reading), check out the 2013 expose online at: http://www.denverpost.com/ci_22813161/colorado-ski-industry-enjoys-protection-from-law-waivers. Act responsibly, be respectful, but know your rights, and if the worst should happen, talk to your local (skier) attorney!