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Colorado Supreme Court Rules on Ski Avalanche Death

The Colorado Supreme Court recently rejected Taft Conlin’s family’s appeal of its lawsuit against Vail Resorts. Taft Conlin was killed while skiing by an inbounds avalanche at Vail ski area in 2012 when he was just 13 years old. Passionate about protecting others from Taft’s fate, his mother Louise Ingalls remains a firm advocate for increased transparency and safety measures from large commercial ski resorts. “We never [want] this to happen to anyone else ever again because it’s the most devastating, awful thing a parent can go through[,]” she said, when explaining the family’s motivation behind the ski lawsuit.

An Eagle County District Court jury relieved Vail Resorts from liability for Taft’s death, arguing it had properly closed the ski run, despite it remaining accessible to the young teen through a second entrance. That same day, an inbounds avalanche also killed 28-year-old Christopher Norris at Winter Park’s Mary Jane Ski Area. Like in Conlin’s case, the Colorado Supreme Court denied Norris’ family relief and instead declared inbounds avalanches an inherent risk of skiing, effectively shielding commercial ski resorts from lawsuits related to deaths or injuries to skiers caused by inbounds avalanches.

Colorado ski laws prioritize the profitability of commercial resorts over the safety of its citizens. Bloch & Chapleau has long advocated for transparency of information and increased safety measures to protect snow riders. For example, inbounds avalanches can be prevented or tempered with bombings and other mitigation techniques. Accident Investigation Teams could be assigned to every case and required to produce a full, detailed report. Resorts could publish ski injury and fatality statistics so that citizens can make informed choices about whether, when, and where to ski. In fact Bloch & Chapleau is again proposing new legislation for the Colorado General Assembly to consider in 2022 in its continued efforts to promote safety and accountability for ski areas.

If you have been injured while skiing or snowboarding, or if you want to discuss Bloch & Chapleau’s proposed ski safety legislation, call attorneys Joseph Bloch or Trent Ongert at 970-926-1700.

 

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