Winter Sports Injuries: Liability of Ski Resorts and Recreation Areas

If you’re a skier, snowboarder, or bobsled enthusiast, a ski resort is your happy place and the winter is your happy time. That’s especially true this year, as Mother Nature has cooperated by gifting snow lovers with great conditions, and with COVID largely behind us, you’re free to travel to your favorite resorts again.

The only problem with skiing is that even excellent conditions don’t nullify the risks you face when you hurl yourself down a ski resort slope. No matter how experienced you are, the unexpected can occur. Injuries can come from falls, run-ins with other skiers, and more. If you’re hurt while at a resort, it’s important to know what legal remedies are available to you — and the truth is that they’re somewhat limited.

Every state has its own laws about liability, but in regions where the ski industry contributes to state coffers, there’ve been a lot of laws passed to protect the resorts. The language of these may differ, but they generally point to the inherent dangers of skiing and snowboarding to shield ski resorts from personal injury lawsuits: the idea is that if you’re going to ski, you’re assuming a certain amount of risk and holding the resorts harmless. The same is not true for accidents caused by negligent skiers, against whom you can file a suit if their reckless or careless behavior led to an injury. And if the ski resort is negligent in an area outside of the slopes, that’s an entirely different matter. For example, if the ski lift or a snow-making machine is operated improperly and leads to an injury, or if trails are poorly maintained or marked, an injured party may be able to file a successful personal injury claim.

Though ski resorts have successfully lobbied their state legislatures to pass laws that protect them from liability lawsuits, their exemptions don’t cover injuries that happen in their hotel rooms, restaurants, lodges, or other locations. Management is still responsible for keeping these areas safe and well maintained to avoid harm, food must be well stored and prepared to avoid food poisoning, and even parking-lot conditions can be grounds for a lawsuit. The rule of thumb for legal claims comes down to whether or not the injury is a result of skiing or snowboarding.

If you have questions about your rights regarding an injury that occurred at a recreation area or resort, our attorneys are here to help. Contact us today for more information.