Woman Holding Hip Flask Photo Credit: CasarsaGuru (iStock).

Photo Credit: CasarsaGuru (iStock).

In case you missed it, the National Ski Areas Association 'skier responsibility code' (technically called 'Your Responsibility Code) has been updated in recent months to include two new guiding items. While how the rules of the code are enforced is left up to each resort, the code helps promote a culture of safety when it comes to slopesports around Colorado. Note that breaking many of these rules can also have legal ramifications.

Here's a breakdown of what's included in the code for skiers and snowboarders visiting Colorado's resorts:

  1. Always stay in control. You must be able to stop or avoid people or objects.
  2. People ahead or downhill of you have the right-of-way. You must avoid them.
  3. Stop only where you are visible from above and do not restrict traffic.
  4. Look uphill and avoid others before starting downhill or entering a trail.
  5. You must prevent runaway equipment.
  6. Read and obey all signs, warnings, and hazard markings.
  7. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.
  8. You must know how and be able to load, ride and unload lifts safely. If you need assistance, ask the lift attendant.
  9. Do not use lifts or terrain when impaired by alcohol or drugs.
  10. If you are involved in a collision or incident, share your contact information with each other and a ski area employee.

Recent changes to the code included splitting an original guideline into two separate points (rules 6 and 7), as well as adding points 9 and 10, related to slopesporting while impaired and responsibilities following a collision, respectively.

In recent years, alcohol and drug use at Colorado's resorts has been a common complaint among guests, who express concern that impairment could impact safety. Many slopegoers who aren't highly aware of this code will likely be surprised this guideline wasn't already included. Use of a ski slope or trail while impaired was already illegal in Colorado per the Ski Safety Act.

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The importance of the second guideline that was added, regarding post-collision actions, was highlighted in a legal case that recently hit Colorado's court system. A snowboarder was criminally charged and convicted for leaving the scene of a collision that killed author Ron LeMaster. While the courts system could not prove the snowboarder did anything that could have led to a manslaughter charge, it did determine that leaving without following proper procedure violated the law.

This is just one example of how a violation of the 'skier's responsibility code' can result in criminal charges in some cases. In Colorado, slopegoers that violate the Ski Safety Act can be subject to a fine of up to $1,000. Violations may also result in other charges (for example, manslaughter in a collision) and civil penalties. 

Slopegoers in Colorado should make sure to follow the guidelines of 'Your Responsibility Code' for the safety of everyone on the mountain.

Read more about the 'skier's responsibility code', technically called 'Your Responsibility Code' here. Find rules related to Colorado's Ski Safety Act here, and remember, in many cases, breaking the NSAA skier responsibility code also means doing something illegal in Colorado.

Spencer McKee is OutThere Colorado's Director of Content and Operations, often found reporting on outdoor recreation news. In his spare time, Spencer loves to hike, rock climb, and trail run. Find him on Twitter at @spencemckee

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