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Ski Resort Liability for Negligently Maintained Property

There are some activities or sports that the law considers to be inherently dangerous or that pose such a high risk of injury to a person that the liability of the sponsor, owner, or agent of the activity might be exempt. The person engaging in that activity must take responsibility for knowing that there is a high risk of injury.

Among the more common inherently dangerous sports is downhill skiing — gliding down icy slopes at high speeds complete with moguls, trees, rocks and dramatic changes in the terrain. Ski runs are labeled from novice to expert, and a beginning skier can hardly complain of injury if he or she risks skiing down a trail clearly marked for experts.

Ski lift tickets have printed warnings and waivers of liability, releasing the ski resort’s owners from any claim of injury due to the inherent risks of the sport. Such inherent risks, as outlined by the Colorado Ski Safety Act, include: changing snow conditions and weather, variations in the terrain, collisions with other skiers or natural or man-made objects, rocks, bare spots and failure to ski within your own ability.

Despite assuming “at your own risk” liability when skiing, ski resorts have still been successfully sued by injured skiers. In 2007, two injured skiers sued Vail Resorts for negligently failing to mark a boundary after they skied over the unmarked boundary and landed on an access road. In Connecticut, a 15-year-old skier suffered paralyzing injuries in 2006 when he skied off a jump and landed on his head. Lawyers for the teenager alleged the resort negligently failed to have staff on site or signs warning of the jump’s difficulty.

Since ski resorts are inviting the public onto their properties, they are not exempt from keeping the ski runs groomed and free of hazards, despite the waivers of responsibility and the inherently dangerous aspects of the activity. Resorts maintain the duty or responsibility to warn of hidden hazards, difficult terrain or jumps and to mark boundaries so that they are clearly visible to skiers under ordinary conditions. Resorts that fail to properly maintain their premises can be held liable if people are personally injured due to negligence.

The advent of terrain parks, snowboarding and the yearly introduction of new equipment have tested the law’s limits on liability, as a result ski resort liability needs to be constantly updated as the winter sports continue to grow and evolve. If you have been injured in a winter sport accident at a resort, such as skiing, tubing or snowmobiling, you may have a premises liability claim against the resort if they failed to properly maintain the grounds. Talk to an experienced premises liability attorney in your area to find out if you could receive medical compensation for your injuries.