Ever wondered how ski resorts, rafting companies and other recreational entities maintained such continuity? The hazard signs at terrain parks and ski areas throughout the country and in Canada all brandish the same graphics. Liability waivers you sign before rafting all bear a striking resemblance. Who designed them?
Peter Rietz, chief operating officer of the Rietz Law firm in Dillon, is the man behind many of the ways the winter and water sports industries monitor recreational safety with things like skier responsibility codes.
Rietz has authored numerous policies adopted throughout the nation and Canada by businesses in the recreation industry and has defended, at one time or another, all of the ski resorts in Colorado.
His firm specializes in defending businesses in the industry in cases involving injuries, death and accidents. Rietz and his attorneys represent clients in the sport, recreation, hospitality and resort industries, counseling businesses on day-to-day operations and business transactions.
Part of his work involves creating materials for businesses in the winter and water sports industries like safety videos, liability waivers and signage that helps limit legal vulnerability - most notably, Rietz re-wrote the skier responsibility code to include snowboarders and his work was adopted by the National Ski Areas Association.
"It's a real blessing to work in the areas I have a passion for athletically," Rietz said. "I love the winter sports industry and it's my job to defend it - there couldn't be more of a more cohesive relationship between my personal and professional life."
It's giving back to his passion for recreating that creates the success of Rietz's firm. He and his attorneys put in 300 hours a year pro bono for client risk management.
"We do that because we want to make sports safer," Rietz said. "It's never going to be completely safe, but in the strictest sense, my belief is that a recreator chooses to shoulder the responsibility - when you go out and ski and snowboard, you assume the risk and I want our children and future generations to participate without undue constraints."
It's Rietz's vow to protect recreation industries from frivolous law suits that costs them and their insurance carriers millions of dollars.
"We bring that kind of passion that a lot of people might not think about," Rietz said. "We love sports, but there are ways to do them safely and to enjoy them to their utmost potential. The ski areas need to be protected from damaging lawsuits."
Rietz, an avid skier, Level III certified ski instructor, and Level 300 certified national race coach, spent 10 years of his life as a self-proclaimed ski bum at Loveland Ski Area.
"Like a lot of people up here, I started in the ski industry," Rietz said. "I came out here from a less-than-lackluster racing career and worked at Loveland Ski Area coaching."
Rietz ran a race program at Loveland until deciding to return to law school in 1982 to pursue his dream of becoming a lawyer.
"I always wanted to be a lawyer and at 21-years-old, I told my parents I was going to take a year off before going to law school - well, that became 10 years, it was a pretty good lifestyle but I finally reached a point of having to move forward," Rietz said.
And move on he did, but Rietz never let his love for skiing go. In fact, it's part of the philosophy of how he runs his office.
"We're a small office and we try to operate more as a family," Rietz said. "All of our attorneys are hand-picked and passionate about this area. We're an office of avid skiers and former patrollers."
His love for sports and defending them doesn't stop with the winter sports industry. Rietz is also an avid water ski enthusiast with extensive tournament experience and has owned and operated a water ski school in Wisconsin since 1971.
"I have in-depth knowledge from all aspects from the industry of recreating," Rietz said. "I've been a coach, I've owned a company and have experienced the worries of liability and I've also always specialized on creating materials for businesses to utilize and add to their defense artillery."
Among Rietz's next projects, he and his firm are focusing on a sister company called Mountain Graphix, which creates three-dimensional, digital simulations of incidents that occur at ski areas or out on river trips. The company also puts together tutorial videos, one used by Frisco's Adventure Park Tubing Hill.