Colorado Supreme Court: Are avalanches inherent risk of resort skiing? | AspenTimes.com

Colorado Supreme Court: Are avalanches inherent risk of resort skiing?

Jason Blevins
The Denver Post
A full scale exercise of the Avalanche Deployment program took place on the top of Vail Pass. The program uses Flight for Life Colorado to rapidly deploy an avalanche team, which includes a search dog, dog handler, and a snow safety technician to the site of an avalanche where someone has been buried or injured. This unique program is a coordinated effort involving Flight For LIfe Colorado, Colorado Sheriff's Department, local area ski patrols such as Vail, Beaver Creek, Arapahoe Basin, Loveland, Snowmass, Search and Rescue teams and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. The exercise consisted of two different scenarios in close proximity to each other in the back country near Vail. The Avalanche Deployment Teams were deployed by Flight for Life helicopter into mock avalanche areas and raced against the clock to locate real-life buried victims. The scenarios lasted over 5 hours and had over 14 deployment flights.
Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post | THE DENVER POST

In-bounds avalanches extremely rare

In the last 40 years or so, Colorado resorts have seen three skiers killed in an in-bounds avalanche: Christopher Norris at Winter Park and Taft Conlin at Vail in January 2012 and David Conway at Arapahoe Basin in May 2005, which was reported by the Forest Service as the first in-bounds avalanche fatality at a Colorado ski resort in 30 years. Since 1975, Colorado ski areas have logged about 395 million skier visits.

The first salvo in the Colorado Supreme Court’s upcoming consideration of the so-called “inherent risks” of skiing — which have protected ski areas since 1979 as part of the Colorado Ski Safety Act — has been launched by the widow of a man killed in an in-bounds avalanche at Winter Park ski area three years ago.

Salyndra Fleury’s attorneys this month filed their opening brief in a case that could have sweeping ramifications for the often-copied law that assigns responsibilities to both skiers and resorts and limits a ski area’s liability when skiers are injured or killed.

The brief focuses on potential ambiguity in the Ski Safety Act, which does not include avalanches in a list of inherent risks that skiers must acknowledge when skiing at a resort.

Fluery’s argument boils down to this: resorts are only protected by the risks specifically listed in the Ski Safety Act.

While the resort industry argues the risk of avalanches inside ski area boundaries is part of the act’s defined dangers of ever-changing weather and snow conditions, the Fleury argument could upend legislation that has protected Colorado resorts from lawsuits for more than 25 years.

To read the rest of this story, visit The Denver Post.


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