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Skiing in Colorado: Rights & responsibilities on the slope

Colorado is one of the most beautiful places in the world to ski. Aspen, Vail, Telluride, Breckenridge — the names are synonymous with enthralling, well-groomed slopes.

While riding your favorite mountain, though, you must keep your wits about you, as skiing has many associated dangers. In Colorado, skiing-specific laws define what your responsibilities are and what you can expect if you’re injured while skiing.

The Legal Landscape

Skiing in Colorado is governed by the Colorado Ski Safety Act, which establishes the expected legal norms that all skiers must abide by. The Colorado Skier Responsibility Code sums it up thusly:

  • Stay in control at all times, so that you can avoid collisions with people and objects.
  • Anyone who’s ahead of you has the right of way. Yield to them.
  • Don’t stop anywhere you would block a trail, or where people above can’t see you.
  • While merging or starting down a trail, yield to anyone further up.
  • Prevent runaway equipment by using safety devices.
  • Obey posted signs. Don’t enter closed trails or areas.
  • Don’t use a lift unless you can get on, ride and get off safely.

Narrowed Liability

One of the key features of the Colorado Ski Safety Act is its assertion that skiing is an inherently dangerous sport, and that all skiers assume responsibility for the normal risks that come along with it. If you have a skiing accident that involves a resort’s design — hitting a tree, rock outcropping, or other environmental hazard — this would typically not be subject to litigation, since such things are part of the inherent dangers of skiing. You assume this risk whenever you strap on your skis or ride your snowboard.

However, the law singles out two specific kinds of accidents that are not inherent to the risks of skiing:

  • Collisions between skiers or snowboarders that result directly from one party’s negligence
  • Accidents resulting from faulty or defective ski-lifts, possibly involving a lift operator or other employee’s negligence

If you’ve been involved in one of these types of accidents, it’s possible that you have a personal injury case. However, the technical nature of Colorado’s skiing laws demands that an experienced attorney evaluate the facts to determine whether there is liability under our law and if so, who has liability.