Advertisements

Tickets for CSAW go up in Price Sunday, Attend this Avalanche Workshop Sign Up and Learn

Now is the time to purchase your $25 ticket for CSAW. Ticket price increases to $40 on Sunday.
WHY ATTEND CSAW?

The Colorado Snow and Avalanche Workshop is a one-day professional development seminar for people working and recreating in and around avalanche terrain. It provides a venue to listen to presentations and discuss new ideas, techniques and technologies in avalanche research and field work.

The 2018 Colorado Snow and Avalanche Workshop will feature a diverse set of speakers covering topics from the effects of climate change on our snowpack to the history of the Colorado Department of Transportation avalanche mitigation program.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE & PURCHASE YOUR TICKET

Whether you are a ski patroller, avalanche forecaster, road maintenance personnel, ski guide, avalanche educator, student, applied researcher, or backcountry user, we hope you can join us!

Want to give back?
Consider donating to Friends of CAIC! Your gift supports CAIC’s backcountry forecasting program and avalanche education throughout Colorado.
Donate Now
@FriendsofCAIC @COAvalancheInfo @ColoradoSkiUSA @CAICfrontrange @CAICaspen @CAICsthsanjuan @CAICsthsanjuan @CAICsangrecrist @CAICgunnison @CAICgrandmesa @CAICnthsanjuan @CAICsawatch @CAICsummit

open.php?u=26266d74ed8400ca8c14ee472&id=2e445b708e&e=fe43feda5c

Virus-free. www.avast.com
Advertisements

It’s getting to that time of you, Donate and Sign Up to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center

558e2c88-246a-402b-8f8a-5ed97555ad4a.png
SEPTEMBER 2018 ISSUE |Looking back
The monthly dump is back for the 2018 – 2019 season! We could not be more excited for the upcoming winter season. But first, let’s take a look back at how last season shaped up and the events we have to kick off this fall.
2017-2018 Season Review
The 2017-18 avalanche season in Colorado was characterized by a stark north-south gradient in total snowfall, and warm, wet storms punctuating prolonged dry spells. In portions of the Central and Southern Mountains, it was one of the driest winters in the last 40 years. Our Northern Mountains fared better, with some areas quietly sneaking in a decent season with near or even slightly above median annual snowfall. Rain as high as 12,000 feet and several dust events made many us of wonder how winter might look in the future.

There were approximately 2200 avalanches reported to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC). CAIC documented 35 incidents, with 45 people caught and three killed – less than the 10-year mean of six fatalities per season. The numbers are likely affected by a shortened snowpack season, particularly in our Southern Mountains, that had long stretches with little avalanche hazard due to poor snow coverage.

An early October storm dropped enough snow at higher elevations to persist through a pronounced fall/early 12de65a6-ef64-465b-97da-07a339ae0f8a.jpgwinter drought. A thick foundation of depth hoar developed across much of the state. This layer plagued us for the remainder of the season. We received four “storms” during this drought period with very little snow accumulating prior to Thanksgiving. Each of these storms was followed by extended dry periods of at least a week. Our first close call occurred right after one of these modest loading events on November 18, when a snowboarder near Aspen was caught, carried, and partially buried. Fortunately, he walked away with no major injuries.

The longest period without significant snowfall was from November 18 to just before Christmas. During this five-week dry spell, the snowpack around the state dropped to less than 75% of long-term median, with some areas in the Central and Southern Mountains in the single digits. A “Christmas storm” finally brought snow we could measure in feet. Our snowpack did not handle this test well, and we saw our first, and in hindsight, most widespread avalanche cycle of the season. This pattern – mid to late-month storms interrupting dry periods and leading to avalanche cycles – continued into April. The avalanches in each cycle failed on the facet layer that developed during the early-season drought

The first fatality of the season occurred right after the mid-January storm in the San Juan Mountains near Silverton. Two backcountry skiers were caught and partially buried after venturing into terrain they planned to avoid. One did not survive.

February was the snowiest month of the season for the entire state, accounting for a large percentage of snowfall for the entire season. In some locations in the Southern Mountains, February snowfall amounted to around half of the season’s snowfall. Not surprisingly, we also had a lot of associated avalanche activity, and 6bc68772-ea3a-4929-9ee2-6181cc2ef830.jpga little over one third of all avalanche incidents occurred during this one month. The month’s incidents include a solo skier near Berthoud Pass who was caught, carried, and sustained injuries, and a skier near Vail Pass who was partially buried and suffered serious injuries requiring hospitalization.

Mid-February storms produced a remarkably sustained cycle of large and very large avalanches, with D2.5 or larger slides nearly every day for over a week in some locations. The cycle left many professionals searching their memories to recall such a long-lived cycle of avalanches breaking to the ground with very small loads or even just a minor uptick in wind transport.

March was mostly warm and dry. Warm, spring-time temperatures brought a few days of small wet avalanches throughout March, but we didn’t get a pronounced Wet Slab avalanche cycle until later in the season. Storms in the latter half of the month brought rain to 11,000 ft. We had several close calls during the month, but entered April with hopes of finishing the season with only one tragic avalanche fatality.

It was not to be. One of the season’s largest storms arrived on April 6, delivering ample heavy, wet snow over the next three days. Snow-water-equivalent was up to 4 inches of water with 2 to 3 feet of snow in the favored locations. We observed rain close to 12,000 feet at the tail end of the storm. This was an unusual 3d5c6435-0395-4d04-b2ae-a8224207926f.jpgevent, and two fatalities occurred in the three-day period right after the storm lifted. On closing day for Aspen Highlands (April 8), a member of the local Search and Rescue group was caught, carried, and killed in the backcountry adjacent to the ski area. An avalanche warning was in effect at the time of accident. On April 10, snowmobilers near Breckenridge triggered an avalanche that broke on the early-season, basal facets. The victim was fully buried and killed. He was wearing a beacon, but it was not turned on. It was sobering to enter the final stretches of the season with two more tragic accidents, each of which has take-home lessons that are too familiar. A number of Wet Slab avalanches followed later in April and into May.

On the education front, the CAIC and Friends of CAIC continued the Know Before You Go program statewide. Combined with our other educational programs, CAIC staff and trained instructors across the state conducted around 150 education events and reached approximately 6300 students. We look forward to improving and expanding these programs for next season.

Lastly – Thank you for your past support and in advance for your continued support. Together we can achieve our strategic goals and continue to build the best avalanche forecast center Colorado has ever seen.

Upcoming Events
8c2f7749-edd1-4d10-bcee-7f04df00a96f.jpg

Mountain Meteorology Workshop

Tuesday – Thursday, Sept. 11-13
Colorado Mountain College, Leadville
Click here to learn more and purchase your ticket.

921f697b-5999-4990-a891-541bd16372ad.jpg

Bentgate’s Ski Season Kickoff Party

Thursday, Oct. 4
American Mountaineering Center, Golden
Click hereto learn more and purchase your ticket.

e1378c69-60ef-4d40-8a0b-41e0e0b104a8.jpg

Colorado Snow & Avalanche Workshop

Friday, October 5
Riverwalk Center, Breckenridge
Click hereto learn more and purchase your ticket.

Want to give back?
Consider donating to Friends of CAIC! Your gift supports CAIC’s backcountry forecasting program and avalanche education throughout Colorado. Help us help you stay safe.
Donate Now
Copyright © 2018 Friends of Colorado Avalanche Information Center, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address
Friends of CAIC
PO BOX 267
Grand Junction, CO 81502

open.php?u=26266d74ed8400ca8c14ee472&id=14563dd2ba&e=fe43feda5c

@CAICfrontrange @COAvalancheInfo @ColoradoSkiUSA @CAICaspen @friendsofCAIC @CAICsthsanjuan @CAICsthsanjuan @CAICsangrecrist @CAICgunnison @CAICgrandmesa @CAICnthsanjuan @CAICsawatch @CAICsummit

#SkiLaw #SkiAreaLaw #RecLaw #RecreationLaw #OutdoorLaw #ORLawTextbook


Applications being accepted through April 5, 2018 for A3 Executive Director position. Position announcement below employment listing

AAA_primary_logo.png
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

The American Avalanche Association (A3) has an excellent opportunity to make a national impact among avalanche professionals and backcountry users.

We are actively seeking candidates who are experienced in running non-profits and who have exceptional leadership, fundraising, and project management skills to serve as Executive Director of A3. Top candidates will be leaders with exceptional interpersonal and communication skills who are able to foster a spirit of collaboration and teamwork amongst a wide range of outdoor professionals.

The A3 Executive Director is responsible for daily operations, fundraising, programs oversight, and community relations to a membership of 1,500 current and aspiring avalanche professionals. The organization has grown steadily over the years, continually improving member services, publications, and oversight of avalanche education standards. Our publications include The Avalanche Review, The Snowy Torrents, SWAG, and Avalanche.org.

Responsibilities:

  • Oversee daily operations of a 501(c)3 non-profit, including supervising and managing staff, to effectively execute programs and initiatives that advance the A3 mission.
  • Pursue a multi-pronged development strategy—including individual donors, corporate sponsorships, and grants—with annual and multi-year benchmarks and goals.
  • Envision and coordinate fundraising events.
  • Oversee and contribute to current organizational programs, projects, and initiatives, including: publications, professional and recreational education guidelines, Avalanche.org course provider listings, Certified Instructor Program, and research grants.
  • Act as connector and hub amongst avalanche professionals and avalanche-related organizations to facilitate collaboration, partnership, and sharing of ideas/information across the avalanche industry in the U.S.
  • Work with the A3 Board of Trustees (and external consultants, as needed) to develop, coordinate, and implement strategies that fulfill both the A3 mission of supporting excellence in avalanche safety, education and research and foster building a better and stronger community of avalanche professionals.

Essential Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree and 3+ years of prior professional management experience.
  • Prior experience with fundraising, including donor cultivation and stewardship.
  • Energetic and self-directed with excellent leadership, time management, and organizational skills, including an attention to detail, and the ability to multitask effectively.
  • Experience and drive to work remotely.
  • Exceptional communications skills, both oral and written, including the ability to effectively listen and work with a diverse range of perspectives and opinions.
  • Strong, strategically-focused analytical skills, good common sense, and the ability to think critically and creatively.
  • Proficient computer skills, including word processing, email, spreadsheets, database operations, financial management, basic website updates, and internet/social media tools.
  • Strong personal connection to and passion for the mission of A3.
  • Integrity, positive attitude, solution-oriented, sense of humor, mission driven, dedication.

Preferred Skills & Experience

  • Experience with budget preparation and oversight and financial record keeping.
  • Ability to work effectively in collaboration with diverse groups of people.
  • Familiarity with the non-profit sector, and specifically experience working with a Board of Trustees.
  • Ability to work occasional weekends and evenings for special programs and meetings.
  • Ability to simultaneously be detail-oriented and facilitate big-picture objectives.

Additional Details

This will be a full-time, year-round position and the successful candidate will work remotely from their location. Starting salary range $48,000 to $55,000 annually, DOE. Benefits negotiable (health insurance stipend, retirement, paid time off, holidays). The Executive Director reports to the A3 Board of Trustees.

How to Apply: Resumes with a cover letter and references will be accepted through April 05, 2018.

Submit applications to: employment

At the American Avalanche Association, we honor diversity in the workplace and support one another with respect and trust.

AAA_secondary_logo-01.png

P.O. Box 248 * Victor, Idaho 83455 * Phone: (307) 699- 2049

a3 * www.americanavalancheassociation.org * avalanche.org

Virus-free. www.avast.com

A parked snowmobile is an inherent risk of skiing for which all skiers assume the risk under Colorado Ski Area Safety Act.

A Steamboat ski area employee parked a snowmobile at the bottom of a run. The plaintiff came down the run and hit the snowmobile injuring herself. She claimed the snowmobile was not visible from 100′ and was in violation of the Colorado Skier Safety Act. The Federal District Court for Colorado Disagreed.

Schlumbrecht-Muniz v. Steamboat Ski & Resort Corporation, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30484

State: Colorado, United States District Court for the District of Colorado

Plaintiff: Linda Schlumbrecht-Muniz, M.D.

Defendant: Steamboat Ski & Resort Corporation, a Delaware Corporation d/b/a STEAMBOAT

Plaintiff Claims: negligence, negligence per se, and respondeat superior

Defendant Defenses: Colorado Skier Safety Act

Holding: for the Defendant

Year: 2015

The plaintiff was skiing down a run at Steamboat Ski Area. (Steamboat is owned by Intrawest Resorts, Inc.) On that day, an employee of Steamboat parked a snowmobile at the bottom of that run. The snowmobile was not visible for 100′. The plaintiff collided with the vehicle incurring injury.

The plaintiff sued claiming simple negligence, negligence per se and respondeat superior. The Negligence per se claim was based on an alleged failure of the ski area to follow the Colorado Skier Safety Act.

The ski area filed a motion for summary judgment arguing the claims of the plaintiff failed to plead the information needed to allege a violation of the Colorado Skier Safety Act.

Analysis: making sense of the law based on these facts.

The court first looked at the requirements necessary to properly plead a claim.

“…the mere metaphysical possibility that some plaintiff could prove some set of facts in support of the pleaded claims is insufficient; the complaint must give the court reason to believe that this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims.” The ultimate duty of the court is to “determine whether the complaint sufficiently alleges facts supporting all the elements necessary to establish an entitlement to relief under the legal theory proposed.”

This analysis requires the plaintiff to plead facts sufficient to prove her claims to some certainty that the court can see without a major stretch of the imagination.

The ordinary negligence claims were the first to be reviewed and dismissed. The Colorado Skier Safety Act states that the defendant ski area is “immune from any claim for damages resulting from “…the inherent dangers and risks of skiing…

Notwithstanding any judicial decision or any other law or statute, to the contrary, … no skier may make any claim against or recover from any ski area operator for injury resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing.

Although the law allows suits against ski areas for violation of the act, those claims must be plead specifically and fit into the requirements set forth in the act. As such the court found the defendant Steamboat could be liable if:

Accordingly, Steamboat may be liable under one of two theories: a skier may recover if her injury resulted from an occurrence not considered an inherent danger or risk of skiing; or a skier may recover if the ski operator violated a provision of the Act and that violation resulted in injury.

The first claim of an injury that was not an inherent risk of skiing would hold the defendant ski area liable for a negligence claim. The second requires specific violation of the Colorado Skier Safety Act.

Steamboat argued that pursuant to the Colorado Skier Safety Act, the term inherent risks as defined in the act were to be read broadly and a parked snowmobile was an inherent risk of skiing.

The Ski Safety Act defines “inherent dangers and risks of skiing” to mean:

…those dangers or conditions that are part of the sport of skiing, including changing weather conditions; snow conditions as they exist or may change, such as ice, hard pack, powder, packed powder, wind pack, corn, crust, slush, cut-up snow, and machine-made snow; surface or subsurface conditions such as bare spots, forest growth, rocks, stumps, streambeds, cliffs, extreme terrain, and trees, or other natural objects, and collisions with such natural objects; impact with lift towers, signs, posts, fences or enclosures, hydrants, water pipes, or other man-made structures and their components; variations in steepness or terrain, whether natural or as a result of slope design, snowmaking or grooming operations, including but not limited to roads, freestyle terrain, jumps, and catwalks or other terrain modifications; collisions with other skiers; and the failure of skiers to ski within their own abilities.

The court then looked at decisions interpreting the inherent risk section to determine if the act was to be construed narrowly or broadly.

In all cases, Colorado courts looked at the act as a list of the possible risks of skiing but not all the possible risks. As such, a snowmobile parked at the bottom of the slope was an inherent risk of skiing.

I am also persuaded that the presence of a parked snow mobile at the end of a ski run is an inherent risk of the sport of skiing. While Steamboat cites Fleury for that court’s description of the “common understanding of a ‘danger,'” and analogizes the presence of a snowmobile to cornices, avalanches, and rubber deceleration mats for tubing, I find that a parked snowmobile is not analogous to those examples because a snowmobile is not part of the on-course terrain of the sport.

The court also found that even if the snowmobile parked on a run was not an inherent risk, the statute required skiers to stay away from vehicles and equipment on the slopes. “Each skier shall stay clear of snow-grooming equipment, all vehicles, lift towers, signs, and any other equipment on the ski slopes and trails.”

The plaintiff’s argument was the violation of the statute was failing to properly for failing to properly outfit the snowmobile.

Plaintiff clarifies in her Response that the negligence per se claim is for violation of section 33-44-108(3), which requires snowmobiles operated “on the ski slopes or trails of a ski area” to be equipped with “[o]ne lighted headlamp, one lighted red tail lamp, a brake system maintained in operable condition, and a fluorescent flag at least forty square inches mounted at least six feet above the bottom of the tracks.”

Plaintiff also argued the statute was violated because the snowmobile was not visible for 100′ as required by the statute. However, this put the plaintiff in a catch 22. If the plaintiff was not a vehicle, then it was a man-made object which was an inherent risk of skiing. If she pleads the snowmobile was a vehicle and not properly equipped, then she failed to stay away from it.

Neither approach leads Plaintiff to her desired result. Steamboat correctly asserts that if the snow-mobile is characterized as a man-made object, Plaintiff’s impact with it was an inherent danger and risk pursuant to section, and Steamboat is immune to liability for the resulting injuries. If Plaintiff intends for her Claim to proceed under the theory that Steamboat violated section 33-44-108(3) by failing to equip the snowmobile with the proper lighting, she did not plead that the parked vehicle lacked the required items, and mentions only in passing in her Response that the vehicle “did not have an illuminated head lamp or trail lamp because it was not operating.”

The final claim was based on respondeat superior.

Plaintiff has alleged that the Steamboat employee was acting within the scope of her employment when she parked the snowmobile at the base of Bashor Bowl. See id. (“Under the theory of respondeat superior, the question of whether an employee is acting within the scope of the employment is a question of fact”)

Because the respondeat claim was derivative of the prior claims, and they were dismissed, the respondeat superior claim must fail. Derivative means that the second claim is wholly based on the first claim. If the first claim fails, the second claim fails.

So Now What?

This is another decision in a long line of decisions expanding the risks a skier assumes on Colorado slopes. The inherent risks set forth in Colorado Skier Safety Act are examples of the possible risks a skier can assume, not the specific set of risks.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

If you like this let your friends know or post it on FB, Twitter or LinkedIn

Author: Outdoor Recreation Insurance, Risk Management and Law

To Purchase Go Here:

Copyright 2018 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law

Email: Rec-law@recreation-law.com

Google+: +Recreation

Twitter: RecreationLaw

Facebook: Rec.Law.Now

Facebook Page: Outdoor Recreation & Adventure Travel Law

Blog: www.recreation-law.com

Mobile Site: http://m.recreation-law.com

By Recreation Law    Rec-law@recreation-law.com    James H. Moss

#AdventureTourism, #AdventureTravelLaw, #AdventureTravelLawyer, #AttorneyatLaw, #Backpacking, #BicyclingLaw, #Camps, #ChallengeCourse, #ChallengeCourseLaw, #ChallengeCourseLawyer, #CyclingLaw, #FitnessLaw, #FitnessLawyer, #Hiking, #HumanPowered, #HumanPoweredRecreation, #IceClimbing, #JamesHMoss, #JimMoss, #Law, #Mountaineering, #Negligence, #OutdoorLaw, #OutdoorRecreationLaw, #OutsideLaw, #OutsideLawyer, #RecLaw, #Rec-Law, #RecLawBlog, #Rec-LawBlog, #RecLawyer, #RecreationalLawyer, #RecreationLaw, #RecreationLawBlog, #RecreationLawcom, #Recreation-Lawcom, #Recreation-Law.com, #RiskManagement, #RockClimbing, #RockClimbingLawyer, #RopesCourse, #RopesCourseLawyer, #SkiAreas, #Skiing, #SkiLaw, #Snowboarding, #SummerCamp, #Tourism, #TravelLaw, #YouthCamps, #ZipLineLawyer, Steamboat, Steamboat Ski Area, Colorado Skier Safety Act, snowmobile,


Colorado Snowpack is Extremely Dangerous and getting Worse

558e2c88-246a-402b-8f8a-5ed97555ad4a.png
FEBRUARY 2018 ISSUE |Large & Dangerous
We Have a Deep Problem
After a dry start to the winter, the snowpack in the Colorado mountains is rapidly increasing. The increase in snow over the last few weeks is building a thick slab on top of a weak foundation. This weak layer of snow that sits near the ground has been producing avalanches for most of the winter. With a thicker slab, the avalanches are now much larger. Avalanches are breaking at the ground and are hundreds, sometimes more than a thousand, feet wide. If you get caught, it will be hard to survive.

These are very large Persistent and Deep Persistent Slab avalanches. These types of avalanches are especially dangerous as you may not see the usual signs of unstable snow that you rely on: shooting cracks, rumbling collapses or recent avalanches. The only way to stay safe from these avalanches is to avoid terrain over 30 degrees in the areas that can produce these types of destructive avalanches. The snowpack this winter is unlike the past few winters. The steep slope that you rode safely last season or last month, may now be dangerous.

This is an important time to take a step back and carefully consider the terrain you want to ride. These conditions could last for the rest of the winter. Many of the big avalanche paths that you see in Colorado were formed during avalanche years like this one. Watch the video below and share with your friends. Always get the forecast before you head into the backcountry.

4d3a0a3fdd7deb474244312f90d7da6b.png
Cheers to CAIC with Coffee!
99b33ed3-6464-4cea-9ccd-094da76cee37.jpg
There is nothing better than a hot cup of coffee before, during and after your backcountry ventures! Bivouac Coffee is our official coffee partner for the 2017-2018 season! When you purchase their delicious coffee beans you are directly supporting your avalanche center.

10% of all Bivouac Coffee purchases support avalanche awareness and forecasting throughout Colorado.

Let’s cheers to that! Visit Bivouac Coffee’s website today.

Upcoming Events
d350aabd-1ea2-41fb-b6ac-3ae82cff9c99.png

Down for Change!

Sunday, March 4
Breckenridge Ski Resort
How many vertical feet can you ski or ride in a day? Take part in this competition and benefit CAIC while doing it! Learn more by clicking here.

4af9abbd-b5d8-4ec7-aebd-20985ded3241.png

On-Snow Pop Up!

Saturday, March 3
Location TBD
Join Friends of CAIC and Bivouac Coffee at one of the popular backcountry trailheads along I-70 for some coffee, swag and more. Check back in soon for more information!

fcf775a6-6516-44b0-b60a-9b36d4c70bb4.jpg

WP Beers & Cheers

Sunday, March 18
Hideaway Park Brewery, Winter Park
Coming at you, Winter Park! Join us for beers and cheers in support of your avalanche center. Check back in soon for more information!

afa3532f-2374-4413-85f4-33b0db2aa6fe.jpg

Party for a Purpose

Saturday, March 24
Highlands Alehouse, Aspen
Mark your calendars, Aspen! The party you love is back thanks to Strafe Outerwear. Check back in soon for more information!

Featured Follower
Tag us for a chance to be featured!
@friendsofcaic | #friendsofcaic
a0a92416-3998-40c0-b68c-cc05344e087b.jpg
“Breaking on through to the weekend. Plenty of new snow and hidden dangers in the backcountry so be safe. Know b4 you go!”
– JJ, @peter_deepinpow
Want to Give Back?
Whether you use the CAIC forecasts every day or once a year, please consider making a donation to support avalanche forecasting and education in Colorado. A donation of even $10 helps us continue to improve our programs. Please donate today and support your avalanche center.
Donate Now
Copyright © 2017 Friends of Colorado Avalanche Information Center, All rights reserved.

Our email address is:
info

Want to change how you receive these emails?

open.php?u=26266d74ed8400ca8c14ee472&id=2157071fa5&e=fe43feda5c


Backcountry skier sues in Small Claims Court in San Miguel County Colorado for injuries she received when a backcountry snowboarder triggered an Avalanche that injured her.

The defendant snowboarder had agreed not to descend the slope until the lower parties had called and told them they had cleared the area. The defendant failed to wait and admitted he had triggered the Avalanche.

BEFORE COMMENTING READ EVERYTHING. I WAS NOT THE ATTORNEY FOR EITHER PARTY IN THIS CASE. The defendant in his comments about this article made that statement that I was the plaintiff’s attorney. He was the one in court, not me. How he made that mistake I don’t know. But Sober Up!

State: Colorado, San Miguel Small Claims Court

Plaintiff: Jayleen Troutwin

Defendant: Christopher Parke

Plaintiff Claims: Negligence

Defendant Defenses:

Holding: for the plaintiff

Year: 2017

Facts

Under Colorado law, you can create a duty when you agree to act or not act. Here the defendant created a duty when he agreed not to descend the slope until he had received a phone call from the first party that they had cleared the danger area.

This is a first of its kind suit that I have found, and the judge’s decision in this case is striking in its clarity and reasoning. At the same time, it might open up backcountry injuries to more litigation. The facts that created this lawsuit are specific in how the duty was created, and that will be rare in 90% of the backcountry accidents.

I have attached the written decision of the court to this analysis, and I encourage you to read it.

Facts: taken from the complaint, the CAIC Report and The Order of Judgment

The plaintiff was skiing out of bounds in Bear Creek outside of the Telluride Ski Area. While skiing they ran into the defendant and his friend. The defendant and friend were not ready to go, so the plaintiff and friend took off. The plaintiff and friend stated they would call the defendant when they were out of the danger zone at the bottom of the chute they both intended to ski.

The defendant and his friend did not wait, and triggered an avalanche. Plaintiff was still repelling when the avalanche hit her sweeping her off the rappel, and she fell 1200 feet down the slope riding the avalanche. She survived on top of the snow with several injuries.

The defendant admitted that it was his fault, and he would pay for the plaintiff’s medical bills. He made one payment and no others. The Plaintiff’s medical bills were in excess of $50,000. However, she still skied out after the incident.

The plaintiff sued the defendant in Small Claims Court. Small Claims court is for parties without attorneys, and the judge can grant a maximum of $7500.00 in damages.

Analysis: making sense of the law based on these facts.

Normally, participants in sporting or outdoor recreation events assume the risks inherent in the sport. Avalanches are an inherent risk of skiing. The Colorado Supreme Court has stated that in Colorado Supreme Court rules that an inbounds Avalanche is an inherent risk assumed by skiers based upon the Colorado Skier Safety Act.

Under most circumstances, the plaintiff in this situation would have assumed the risk of her injuries. What sets this decision apart was the agreement at the top of the mountain between the two groups of people. One group agreed not to descend into the chute until the other group had cleared the chute.

This creates an assumed duty on the part of the defendant. By agreeing to the acts, the plaintiff assumed a duty to the defendant.

The assumed duty doctrine “must be predicated on two factual findings.” “A plaintiff must first show that the defendant, either through its affirmative acts or through a promise to act, undertook to render a service that was reasonably calculated to prevent the type of harm that befell the plaintiff.” “Second, a plaintiff must also show either that he relied on the defendant to perform the service or that defendant’s undertaking increased plaintiff’s risk.”

This assumed duty was done specifically to prevent injuries to the other skiers. The skiers also relied on this agreement when they skied down the slope.

This Court, therefore, finds that the Defendant assumed a duty of care in agreeing not to ski his chosen route while Troutwin and Hope were still skiing theirs in an effort to avoid a skier-triggered avalanche.

Thus, when the defendant started down the chute, he violated the agreed to duty of care to the skiers below them.

The next issue to prove negligence in this case is causation or proximate causation. The breach of the duty by the defendant must be related to the injury the plaintiff received. The court simply found but for the actions of the defendant, the injuries of the plaintiff would not have occurred.

The defendant admitted triggering the avalanche, and the avalanche is what swept the plaintiff off the rappel.

The defendant raised two defenses at trial. Comparative Negligence and Assumption of Risk.

Comparative negligence asks, “did the actions of the plaintiff create or expose the plaintiff to an unreasonable risk of harm?” Comparative negligence is applied to reduce the damages the plaintiff might receive if both parties are at fault in causing the injuries to the plaintiff.

The defendant argued the plaintiff assumed the risk of her injuries and was a partial cause of her injuries when she did not use a backup device on her rappel.

The court looked at the failure to use a backup system on rappel as the same as failing to wear a seatbelt in a car or failing to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle. Both have been determined by the Colorado Supreme Court to not be a component contributing to comparative negligence.

The reasoning behind this is simple. The plaintiff should not be required to determine in advance the negligence of any third party. Meaning it is not the injured parties’ duty, in advance to determine and then deal with any possible negligence of any other person. If that was the case, you could never leave the house because you never guessed what injury you might have received.

…[f]irst, a defendant should not diminish the consequences of his negligence by the failure of the injured party to anticipate defendant’s negligence in causing the accident itself. Second, a defense premised on an injured party’s failure to wear a protective helmet would result in a windfall to tortfeasors who pay only partially for the harm their negligence caused. Third, allowing the defense would lead to a veritable battle of experts as to what injuries would have or have not been avoided had the plaintiff been wearing a helmet.

The court found that neither comparative negligence, nor assumption of the risk applied to these facts and were not a defense to the plaintiff’s claims.

The court also added a section to its opinion about the future of backcountry skiing and the Policy issues this decision might create. It is well-written and worth quoting here.

51. This Court has determined that Parke’s duty of care is a result of his express assumption of that duty, rather than broader policy concerns that are typically addressed in protracted discussions of legal duty. It is nevertheless, worth noting that given the increasing popularity of backcountry skiing and skiing into Bear Creek, in particular, the risk of skiers triggering avalanches above one-another is likely increasing. In situations where skiers have no knowledge of whether a group is below, the legal outcome of an accident may be different than the result reached here. A liability rule that thus encourages skiers to avoid investigating whether their descent might pose a risk to those below feels averse to sound public policy. Communication and coordination between groups of backcountry skiers is surely good practice.

52. But meaningful communication is not necessarily impossible in these circumstances. This Court is swayed by the availability of radios like that which Troutwin and Hope carried. These radios are a communication option that appears more reliable than cellular telephones. Perhaps if they become more prevalent, more communication between parties will take place. And it follows and is foreseeable that other communications platforms or safety standards will develop to address this specific risk. The liability rule discussed here does not necessarily foreclose those developments.

53. The ethics and liability rules associated with backcountry skiing are likely to continue to evolve as its popularity increases and safety standards emerge. The law is likely to continue to evolve in kind.

It is refreshing to see a judge look at the broader aspect of his or her decision as it applies to an evolving sport.

The court found that the plaintiff suffered $9,660.00 in damages. The jurisdictional limit a Colorado Small Claims court can issue is a maximum of $7,500.00, which is the amount the plaintiff was awarded.

So Now What?

If you say you are going to do something, do it. If you say you are going to wait, wait. It is that simple.

More importantly, litigation has now entered the realm of backcountry skiing. Will it create more litigation, probably? Backcountry skiers who have no health insurance or no income while they recover will be looking for a way to get hospital bill collectors off their phone and pizza coming to the front door. Worse, health insurance companies will look at a way through their subrogation clauses to try to recover the money they pay out on behalf of their insureds.

At the same time, based upon these facts, the defendant was the sole cause of the plaintiff’s injuries not because he triggered an avalanche, but because he agreed not to trigger an avalanche.

Documents Attached:

Notice, Claim and Summons to Appear for a Trial.   

Answer

Trial Exhibits 1 through 9

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 2

Exhibit 3

Exhibit 4

Exhibit 5

Exhibit 6

Exhibit 7

Exhibit 8

Exhibit 9

Order of Judgment

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Copyright 2017 Recreation Law (720) 334 8529

If you like this let your friends know or post it on FB, Twitter or LinkedIn





If you are interested in having me write your release, fill out this Information Form and Contract and send it to me.

Author: Outdoor Recreation Insurance, Risk Management and Law

To Purchase Go Here:

Facebook Page: Outdoor Recreation & Adventure Travel Law

Email: Rec-law@recreation-law.com

By Recreation Law    Rec-law@recreation-law.com    James H. Moss

#AdventureTourism, #AdventureTravelLaw, #AdventureTravelLawyer, #AttorneyatLaw, #Backpacking, #BicyclingLaw, #Camps, #ChallengeCourse, #ChallengeCourseLaw, #ChallengeCourseLawyer, #CyclingLaw, #FitnessLaw, #FitnessLawyer, #Hiking, #HumanPowered, #HumanPoweredRecreation, #IceClimbing, #JamesHMoss, #JimMoss, #Law, #Mountaineering, #Negligence, #OutdoorLaw, #OutdoorRecreationLaw, #OutsideLaw, #OutsideLawyer, #RecLaw, #Rec-Law, #RecLawBlog, #Rec-LawBlog, #RecLawyer, #RecreationalLawyer, #RecreationLaw, #RecreationLawBlog, #RecreationLawcom, #Recreation-Lawcom, #Recreation-Law.com, #RiskManagement, #RockClimbing, #RockClimbingLawyer, #RopesCourse, #RopesCourseLawyer, #SkiAreas, #Skiing, #SkiLaw, #Snowboarding, #SummerCamp, #Tourism, #TravelLaw, #YouthCamps, #ZipLineLawyer, #RecreationLaw, #OutdoorLaw, #OutdoorRecreationLaw, #SkiLaw,


10th Annual CAIC Benefit Bash – Get your tickets now!

Tickets are selling quickly. Do you have yours?

Join the Friends of CAIC on Saturday, December 2, at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge and support the CAIC in their continued efforts in avalanche forecasting and education throughout Colorado. Get your tickets now before they sell out.

Saturday, December 2
10th Annual CAIC Benefit Bash
Breckenridge Riverwalk Center
5:00pm – 10:00pm
Tickets and more information: https://adecadedeep.eventbrite.com

Here are few things you have to look forward to:

We look forward to seeing you on December 2!