Ski & Snowboarding Accidents: Do You Have A Product Liability Lawsuit?

How does product liability relate to ski and snowboarding accidents? The answer is - in more ways than you might think. We asked Jim Chalat, a Colorado attorney with over 30 years experience whose practice focuses on personal injury, and particularly ski accident law, to explain how product liability cases relate to this growing area of law.

Aging ski lifts an increasing problem

Product liability cases usually arise in connection with the ski lift cases, according to Chalat. He explained:

The United States has certified over 10,000 ski lifts - and many of them are aging. Just this season we've seen a catastrophic lift accident in British Columbia involving a Dopplemyer Tramway. This is the same model Tramway that you see in various places in the United States, including Keystone Colorado. These tramways are aging and they require maintenance and careful inspection.

Certification varies from state to state. In Colorado, we have a tramway board which actually inspects every lift in the state prior to it opening and issues a certificate. Then, during the season, there is supposed to be one unannounced inspection of every tramway, meaning chairlift, rope tow, gondola or other type of lift whether it is a magic carpet or any of these other variations that we see throughout the state. The board then passes on the safety of each chairlift and other tramway. It's similar to an elevator inspection.

Ski operators generally get benefit of the doubt

One of the ongoing points of tension in the industry is the close relationship between members of these regulatory boards and the actual industry itself, according to Chalat. He explained:

That's an ongoing issue that's been addressed in Colorado and about which I've given my commentary. It is really a point of slippage in terms of the aggressiveness of the regulations throughout the United States because ski areas want their lifts to be licensed. They want to be opened. They want the lifts to be running.

States don't typically want to close ski areas or close lifts unless they absolutely have to. So, usually all ties are called in favor of the ski area operator. There's an impulse which the inspector can give to make sure that the ski area operator fixes or maintains its lift more safely. However, that doesn't mean they can prevent every accident. It doesn't mean that just because an inspector went and looked at the lift that they didn't miss something that might later cause an injury or an accident.

That being said, Chalat thinks that it's important to emphasize that the ski industry does a good job of maintaining lifts and tows. The technology and the designs are well thought out and are typically very, very safe.

If you've been injured in a skiing or snowboarding accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney whose practice focuses in this area of the law to discuss your situation, evaluate your options and find out more about potential damages. Consultations are free, without obligation and are strictly confidential.

Jim Chalat
Contributing Author: Attorney Jim Chalat Chalat Hatten & Koupal PC

Jim Chalat has been selected a Colorado SuperLawyer each year that members of the Colorado bar have been considered for the distinction. A Colorado lawyer since 1977, he is senior attorney of Chalat Hatten & Koupal, Denver Colorado. Mr. Chalat is Board Certified as a Civil Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, a nationally esteemed organization, and is a sustaining member of American Trial Lawyers Association and Colorado Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Chalat has published numerous professional articles, including the definitive articles on U.S. ski law and Colorado ski law. He has frequently been interviewed as a national expert on ski litigation, and he is also a popular speaker for Continuing Legal Education, speaking on ski litigation, attorney ethics and malpractice, and general trial tactics.

Author Profile

Article last updated or revieewed on June 19, 2018

Find the Right Lawyer for Your Legal Issue!

Fast, Free and Confidential