Editor's note: This is a portion of the first part of a three-part series by the Denver Post investigating ski area liability. The Vail Daily will run the series throughout the week. To read the first part in its entirety, visit www.denverpost.com.
When someone dies or is seriously injured on a Colorado ski slope, it is the ski patrol - not trained police officers, sheriff's deputies or forest rangers - that documents and determines what happened.
Despite having only informal accident-investigation training, as well as potential conflicts of interest, ski patrollers and their reports are often relied on by local law enforcement agencies when they respond to calls on the mountains, The Denver Post found after reviewing Colorado accidents and lawsuits.
Many times, those agencies - responsible for investigating potential criminal activity, not skiing accidents - aren't called at all.
As a result, family members may have to accept the word of a resort employee about the circumstances that led to their relative's death or serious injury - and typically, they need a subpoena to get even that, attorneys say.