On 31 May 2016 the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that avalanches are an inherent risk of skiing when a skier is killed by an avalanche inside a resort boundary. The Fédération Internationale des Patrouilles de Ski (FIPS) and the Association of Professional Patrollers (APP) submitted an Amicus Brief (Friend of the Court) in May 2015 that stated avalanches should be ruled an inherent risk.
The brief did not discuss the specifics of the case but rather focused on the technical aspects of avalanches to educate the Court. This was an important and appropriate action as the members of FIPS and APP are the primary professionals not only in the US but around the world, who risk their lives trying to make the slopes safe. Every year at least one of these highly trained and experienced professionals dies due to the unpredictability of avalanches.
The Court found resorts are protected from avalanche-related lawsuits under the Ski Safety Act, which was created in 1979 and amended in 1990 and 2004. The act shields resort operators from liability when the death or injury of skiers and snowboarders can be attributed to difficult-to-mitigate threats, such as terrain and weather.
Information for the brief was gathered from FIPS and APP members. Ed Carlson, FIPS Avalanche Interest Group chair, assisted in gathering the information. The brief was submitted by Ed Gassman, Legal Counsel for FIPS, and APP Board Member.
Since 2000, 11 of the 448 people killed in avalanches in the US died inside a ski area. The 11 deaths do not include ski patrollers killed while on duty. This does include the death at Winter Park January 22, 2012, which led to the present law suit, and a death at Vail on the same day.
The actual Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling is available to download below, which certainly will be read by other courts as we move forward. It is well written in simple language terms and interesting for any involved in avalanche mitigation. The Court ruling cites that avalanches are the result of existing and changing snow conditions which was the bottom line conclusion of the FIPS/APP Amicus Brief.
Fleury v IntraWest Colorado Supreme Court Decision (126.5 KiB, 1,095 hits)