Three Things Colorado Skiers Should Know About Their Liability And Safety

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Photo: Snowboarders at A-Basin
Snow-making machines throw snow behind silhouetted snowboarders during opening day at Arapahoe Basin Ski Resort Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, in Arapahoe Basin, Colo.

When Coloradans hit the slopes this winter, they should remember the name Casey Ferguson. He was snowboarding at Keystone Resort in 2015 and collided with a skier, who suffered a separated shoulder as a result. Last month a jury in Summit County ordered Ferguson to pay $263,454 in damages.

The victim, Tom Dubert, is one of several skiers and snowboarders that Evan Banker represents each year. Banker is a personal injury lawyer at the Denver firm Chalat Law, which specializes in cases involving collisions at ski resorts. As ski season gets underway in Colorado, Banker spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner about liability and safety on the slopes.

Three things skiers and snowboarders in Colorado should know:

  1. Homeowner's insurance usually covers a skier's liability if they cause a collision, Banker says. For example, Banker says Ferguson's insurance will pay the $263,454 the court ordered him to pay. Banker adds that he will only pursue a civil case against a skier or snowboarder if that person has homeowner's insurance.
  2. Colorado law presumes the skier or snowboarder farther up on the mountain is at fault in the event of a collision, according to the Colorado Ski Safety Act, but skiers further down should also take responsibility. "Each skier has the duty to maintain control of his speed and course," the act reads. "However, the primary duty shall be on the person skiing downhill to avoid collision with any person or objects below him."
  3. It's rare, but skiers can face criminal charges related to crashes on the mountain. Mark Watson with the Summit County Sheriff's Office says he has helped pursue charges against skiers or riders who left the scene of an accident where someone was seriously hurt, and who were intoxicated when they collided with another skier or rider. And Eagle County Sheriff James Van Beek says his department has pursued assault and reckless endangerment charges in rare circumstances, including two incidents so far in 2016.