US resorts to tighten liability waivers

24th April 2015, by Abi Butcher

The Colorado Supreme Court is to decide whether inbounds avalanches are an inherent risk of skiing

The Colorado Supreme Court is to decide whether inbounds avalanches are an inherent risk of skiing

Ski resorts in Oregan, USA are considering asking skiers and snowboarders to sign tight liability waivers to protect themselves against lawsuits over injuries and deaths on the slopes.

There are 10 ski resorts in Oregan including Mt Bachelor, Timberline Lodge, Mt Hood and Hoodoo Ski Resort. Like the rest of the US, these resorts have what’s known as “inbounds” skiing, a fenced-off area which is patrolled and avalanche controlled. This is why US ski resorts are measured in skiable acres, rather than kilometres of pistes as in Europe, and in theory, skiers can ski “safely” anywhere within the territory without fear of avalanche.

But while some Oregan ski resorts ask skiers and boarders to sign liability waivers when purchasing a lift pass, these documents have not until now stipulated that avalanches are an inherent risk of skiing.

This is set to change following a legal appeal by the families of two skiers who died in Colorado in 2012 following inbounds avalanches in Vail and Winter Park. The Colorado Supreme Court last month announced it would hear an appeal to decide whether inbounds avalanches are one of the inherent risks of skiing.

In addition, last December the Oregon Supreme Court last December ruled that Mt Bachelor could potentially be liable for a severe injury to Myles Bagley, who was paralysed as an 18-year-old after a fall in a terrain park in 2006. Bagley is suing for $21.5 million.

“If somebody catches an edge or collides with another skier, or somebody loses control when they’re trying to do a trick off of a snow feature, those are inherent risks. That’s not negligence,” said Andy Balyeat, a lawyer representing Mt Bachelor and Hoodoo Ski Resort. “But under Oregon’s current scheme, a person can allege negligence.”

Perhaps this is the sad future of skiing?

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