Colorado Courts Criminalize Reckless Skiing Deaths


Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

Denver, CO Apr. 11–The Colorado Supreme Court ruledyesterday that a man who collided with and killed another skier at Vailnearly three years ago should stand trial for reckless manslaughter. Theprecedent-setting decision comes after the case against Nathan Hall wasdismissed in county and district courts and means he must face felonycharges in a criminal trial.

The case stems from a 1997 accident in which Hall-an 18-year-old Vailemployee at the time-apparently lost control while skiing moguls on RivaRidge, flew off a knoll and collided with Allen Cobb. The 33-year-old diedwhen one of Hall’s ski tips struck and fractured Cobb’s skull. Hall, anexperienced skier and former high school racer, was charged with recklessbehavior. But his case was dismissed because lower courts ruled Hall’sskiing too fast for conditions wasn’t likely to cause anyone’s death. TheSupreme Court, however, ruled yesterday that Hall disregarded a”substantial and unjustifiable” risk that death could result from hisconduct, making skiers and snowboarders criminally liable for actions onthe slopes that injure others.

“It seems like a fine line to draw,” said Hugh Emory, a ski area defenselawyer. “In any sporting activity there’s a fine line that separatescriminal fault from an inherent part of the sport.” While Emory said he wasnot familiar with the details of the Hall case, he did say that it would bedifficult to imagine there was criminal conduct in a skier’s “pushing theenvelope.” Hall’s lawyer, Brett Heckman, has argued that Hall simply losthis balance on the steep, bumpy slope and said he was disappointed with thecourt’s decision, stressing that it did not mean his client is guilty.