August 24, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Avalanche is Inherent Risk of Skiing Under Ski Safety Act

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Fleury v. IntraWest Winter Park Operations Corp. on Thursday, February 13, 2014.

Ski Resort—Avalanche—Wrongful Death—Negligence—Inherent Risk—Ski Safety Act.

This case arose from the death of Christopher Norris, who was killed by an avalanche while skiing on a run known as Trestle Trees/Topher’s Trees (Trestle Trees) at Winter Park Resort, which is operated by IntraWest Winter Park Operations Corporation(IntraWest). Norris’s wife, Salynda E. Fleury, individually and on behalf of her minor children, asserted claims for negligence and wrongful death. The district court granted IntraWest’s motion for determination of law and judgment on the pleadings, ruling that an avalanche is an inherent danger or risk of skiing under the Ski Safety Act (Act) and therefore IntraWest was not liable for Christopher Norris’s death.

On appeal, Fleury contended that the district court erred in determining that the avalanche was an inherent risk of skiing under the Act. The Act provides examples in defining the inherent dangers and risks of skiing; however, this list in not exclusive. Giving effect to the plain meanings of the words in the Act, an avalanche fits the definition of inherent dangers and risks of skiing.

Fleury also argued that IntraWest was liable for her husband’s death because it failed to close Trestle Trees and failed to warn skiers about the avalanche danger on the day he was killed. The Act enumerates specific sign requirements and does not require ski area operators to warn skiers of possible avalanches or to close slopes with avalanche danger. Therefore, IntraWest was under no duty to post a warning sign at Trestle Trees or to close it on the day in question. Therefore, the district court properly dismissed Fleury’s claims against IntraWest, and the judgment was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here.

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