Vail: Aftermath of ski collisions can be ugly
Vail skiers and riders find out its up to them, not the resort, to prosecute those at fault
January 11, 2010
VAIL, Colorado — Vail skier Bridget Young has been skiing for about 50 years, but she said she’s never been in a situation like she is now — injured and unable to identify the person who ran her down.
Skiers and snowboarders risk running into each other on the slopes — it happens even to those who try to be especially careful and alert. When it happened to Young around 11 a.m. on Dec. 27, she said it turned her life around.
Young had skied left as she got off a chair lift in Vail. She was waiting for her husband before they began their first run of the day when another skier came up from behind and crashed into her, knocking her down.
She said the man skied a few feet, looked back at her as she laid on the ground, and just kept on skiing.
“He knew I was hurt,” Young said.
Young is frustrated because she thinks she can identify the man, but she needs help from Vail Resorts. She knows he was on either the chair lift directly behind her or two chairs behind. She saw his face and said she’d be able to recognize him. She wants Vail Resorts to pull scanning information and video footage to help her track him down.
If a person skis away and Vail Ski Patrol or other employees or witnesses aren’t around to chase that person, there isn’t much Vail Resorts is required to do by law, said Vail Ski Patrol Director Julie Rust.
“The most important thing is for people to stay at the scene,” Rust said.
Colorado laws state that ski collisions are between the people involved and the resort doesn’t have any responsibility in the aftermath.
Jim Chalat, the senior attorney at Chalat, Hatten and Koupal, a Denver firm that specializes in ski-related cases, said Vail Resorts has no responsibility to provide Young with video tapes or ticket scanning information. But Chalat also said he has gotten subpoenas in the past making ski companies give up similar information.
Ski laws are common sense, Chalat said. The uphill or overtaking skier has the primary responsibility to avoid collision. And there are other common sense things that help skiers and riders avoid collisions like watching where you’re going, not wearing earphones and maintaining good vision on the hill, Chalat said.
When collisions do happen, those involved are required by law to stay at the scene of the accident, Chalat said.
“If you run somebody down, you’re liable,” Chalat said.
When somebody leaves the scene of the accident, unless ski patrol or other mountain employees are around to follow that person, it’s pretty much out of the resort’s hands, Rust said. Employees will, however, “go above and beyond in trying to facilitate the exchange of information, but the information available is only as good as the two people giving it,” Rust said.
Chalat said skiing is simply not a contact sport, and common sense should tell people to stay put if they’re involved in a collision where someone might be injured.
“If you’re responsible, apologize, call your insurance company and hire a thoughtful, decent, ethical lawyer,” Chalat said.
Rust said to follow the Colorado Ski Safety Act and always ski responsibly.
“Just don’t take it for granted out there,” Rust said. “Pay attention at all times.”