Steamboat lawyer makes arguments in Colorado Supreme Court avalanche case |

Steamboat lawyer makes arguments in Colorado Supreme Court avalanche case

Jason Blevins/ The Denver Post

— The Colorado Supreme Court on Tuesday heard oral arguments in a wrongful-death case that could shake the foundation of the law that shields ski areas from liability for on-slope injuries and deaths.

Lawyers were grilled by the justices weighing this question: Are avalanches an inherent risk of skiing, or should resorts be liable for injuries caused by sliding snow within their boundaries?

It depends, they said, on how you interpret dangers listed in the Colorado Ski Safety Act — which doesn’t specifically name avalanches but does include the conditions that create them.

Arguments in the case, which centers on a Winter Park avalanche fatality, were heard at East High School as part of the Courts in the Community program.

The Ski Safety Act, created in 1979 and amended in 1990 and 2004, was created to protect Colorado ski areas from excessive litigation, allowing them to operate without onerous liability insurance premiums. It cites changing weather, nine types of snow conditions, terrain variations and more than two dozen other dangers that are inherent risks of skiing. A skier injured under those risks cannot sue the ski area.

The absence of avalanches in the list makes Winter Park ski area liable for the death of Christopher Norris, said Steamboat Springs attorney Jim Heckbert, who represents Norris’ widow, Salyndra Fleury, in her wrongful-death case.

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