On April 20, 1997, 18-year-old Vail employee Nathan Hall was ripping down Riva Ridge, Vail’s primo high-speed run. He launched off a bump, and as he returned to earth his ski struck and killed another skier, Alan Cobb. Three years later, the accident has become the catalyst for a watershed decision that could pave the way for criminal prosecution of out-of-control skiers.
After two courts dismissed charges against Hall, his case made its way to the Colorado Supreme Court last spring. In a decision that effectively sets a new standard for what’s considered criminal behavior on the slopes, the court ruled that Hall “disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk” that death could result from his conduct and that he should stand trial. Legal experts believe the ruling could open the floodgates for prosecutors looking to bust skiers involved in Colorado accidents. Whether or not Hall is found guilty of skiing with “reckless intent,” speed freaks should take note: The stakes have been raised.