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Ski area settles lawsuit with family of mother killed by faulty chairlift

Kelly Huber was killed and her daughters injured when they were thrown from a lift
Granby Ranch’s Quickdraw Express in December 2018. (Jason Blevins/The Colorado Sun)

The family of the Texas mom who was killed in a chairlift accident that also injured her daughters in 2016 has settled a lawsuit with the ski area and the electrical company that worked on the Quick Draw Express lift.

The amount of the settlement has not been disclosed, but a statement provided by the lawyer representing the San Antonio woman’s survivors said they are “pleased with the outcome and anxious to move on with their lives.”

Kelly Huber’s family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver against the ski area and its contractors in December 2017 and the case was moved to Grand County District Court in 2019. A trial was set to begin in March this year.

Taylor Huber was 9 when she was tossed from the Quickdraw Express. Her sister Ashley was 12. When their chairlift struck tower 5 at a 45-degree angle, per court records, they were thrown 30 feet onto hard-packed snow. Both the girls suffered extensive injuries.

A state investigation following the accident found problems with the drive system that powered the chairlift, which resulted in rapid speed changes on Dec. 29, 2016. Modifications to the lift’s power system by the resort and electrical contractor Electramic Associates caused the lift to suddenly speed up, which flung the chairlift into a tower, ejecting the Hubers.

Kelly Huber’s death was the first caused by a malfunctioning chairlift in Colorado since a bullwheel fell off the then 2-year-old Teller lift at Keystone in 1985, killing two skiers and injuring 49. Her death was the first nationally since a 9-year-old was killed by a faulty chairlift in 1993 at Sierra Ski Ranch in California.

The National Ski Areas Association counted 14 fatalities involving seven malfunctioning chairlifts between 1973 and 2020. In that time the U.S. resort industry provided 18.3 billion chairlift rides to resort guests, covering 9.2 billion miles.

Lawsuits against ski areas are rare, especially cases that reach a jury. States across the country have passed legislation that mirrors the 1979 Colorado Ski Safety Act, which outlines the responsibilities of both skiers and ski resorts and limits liability for resort operators. The legislation requires skiers to follow a responsibility code but allows lawsuits if skiers can prove negligence or reckless actions, like chairlift malfunctions. Still, most lawsuits filed by injured skiers or the families of skiers killed on the slopes do not reach a jury.

Most recent decisions by federal appeals courts and the Colorado Supreme Court involving injured or killed skiers have focused on waivers signed by skiers, which further limit the liability of resort operators.

The Huber family’s legal team took more than 35 depositions from witnesses and ski area experts in preparation for trial. Ashley Huber just graduated from high school. Taylor is 15. The family declined to comment on the settlement but offered a statement through their attorney.

“The Huber family appreciates all the love and support they received from people all over the country who responded to this tragedy and helped them cope with their tremendous loss,” the statement reads.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. To learn more, go to coloradosun.com.