Supreme Court ruling on Winter Park Resort death in 2012
The Colorado Supreme Court ruled on May 31 that avalanches are an inherent risk skiing, even if they occur in-bounds. The decision was related to the in-bounds avalanche at Winter Park Resort on January 22, 2012 that killed Christopher Norris. The court concluded that Intrawest was not negligible for the death.
Under the Ski Safety Act of 1979, the definition of “inherent risks of skiing” includes snow conditions “as they exist or may change.” An in-bounds avalanche is, “at its core,” the movement or changing condition of snow, according to the decision.
Norris’ wife, Salynda E. Fleury, brought a negligence and wrongful death suit again Intrawest claiming Winter Park knew that avalanches were likely to occur in the Trestle Trees, where Norris was skiing, and neglected to warn skiers or close the area.
Norris was found in a tree area between Trestle and Roundhouse trails in the debris field of a small snow slide in a gully at Winter Park Resort. An avalanche on the same day killed a teenage skier on a closed run on Vail Mountain.
The Colorado Avalanche Center issued a warning on the day of the slide stating “Triggering avalanches is likely on any snow-covered slope 30 degrees or steeper that did not slide during the natural cycle yesterday. The natural avalanche cycle has largely run its course, so I will drop the Avalanche Warning, but natural avalanches are still possible today.”
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