Colorado’s ski operators are cocooned in a protective bubble wrap, which insulates them from incidents like an inbounds avalanche, a ski instructor running into a 9-year-old, and a decaying bridge injuring a skier. The state law and season-pass waivers ensure that these operators escape scot free from such liabilities.
Colorado’s Ski and Safety Act was passed 34 years ago in order to protect mom-and-pop ski areas from lawsuits and peaking insurance costs. But now multi billion-dollar real-estate-development companies hold the reins for most of the state’s 25 resorts.
The ski act protect them and they are freed from additional negligence claims by season-pass waivers. According to a Denver Post review of 30 years of lawsuits, the person who sues them is also required to reimburse their attorney fees and costs.
Cases where the lawsuits do take up matters forward, skiers and snowboarders are limited to $250,000 as non-economic damages. Ski resorts reach out to the public through marketing and show skiing and snowboarding as safe (saying that they are safer than cycling or swimming), but once threatened with lawsuits, they retreat back their announcements reiterating that these are dangerous sports.
Kristi Ferraro, whose son was caught in an inbounds avalanche at Vail last year, says that Colorado will soon be known as a place where you can kill off skiers and get away with it, and all the blame will be on the skiers’ negligence. “Things have gone over the edge in terms of how much the state statute protects (resorts),” she said.
Wolf Creek and Powderhorn Mountain Resort are the only two areas in the state that would consider the ski statute and season-pass waivers. According to Wolf Creek chief executive David Pitcher, the ski act “reduces the ambiguity of what’s expected for the public and resorts”.