Can a Ski Resort Be Held Liable for Personal Injury After a Skiing Accident?

If you're injured in a skiing, snowboarding, or sledding accident, the resort is almost always protected from injury liability.

If you get injured while at a ski resort, your legal rights depend on how the injury occurred. If you were injured while skiing or snowboarding and you believe that your injury was caused by the fault of another skier or snowboarder, you may have the right to sue that person for negligence or recklessness - see this page. However, if you were injured while skiing or snowboarding, or even while just standing on a ski trail, and you think that it was the fault of the ski resort, your legal rights are limited.

Ski Resort Immunity and Inherent Risk of Skiing

Most states with thriving ski industries have passed laws that prevent a skier or snowboarder from suing a ski resort for when an accident arises out of the inherent risks of skiing. Every state’s law is different, but most of these laws define the inherent risks of skiing as something like the “integral” or the "reasonably obvious, expected, and necessary" aspects of skiing or snowboarding. This type of law protects the ski resort from most claims of negligence – which usually must be proved to win a personal injury lawsuit. The laws and the legal decisions usually define the integral or necessary aspects of skiing as things like:

  • collisions between skiers
  • a skier’s failure to ski within his or her ability
  • skiing outside a designated area
  • how the ski resort laid out its trails, and
  • whether or how the resort groomed the trails.

In states that have a ski resort immunity law, a skier or snowboarder who is injured by what the law or the courts consider an "inherent risk of skiing" cannot hold the ski resort liable for his or her injury.

Further, the ski laws of some states specifically describe how the ski resort is supposed to do certain things, such as, for example, whether they need to post signs on ski trails. So, even if you think that you got hurt because of a lack of signage, you could not sue the ski resort for lack of signage as long as the ski resort is in compliance with the law. But because each state’s laws are different, you should consult with a personal injury lawyer so that he or she can evaluate your specific situation and determine how your state’s ski laws affect any claim that you might have against a ski area.

Exceptions to "Inherit Risk"

Not all of the ski resort’s activities on the ski slope fall under the inherent risk of skiing. For example, in some states, the inherent risk of skiing may not include things like:

  • whether the ski resort put bumpers on the posts for the ski lifts
  • the manner in which a ski instructor or ski patroller was skiing
  • a malfunctioning chairlift
  • an improperly parked or stored snow machine.

Let’s use the snow machine as an example. If you collide with a parked snow machine, and your state does not consider the presence of ski resort equipment on the ski trails to be an inherent risk of skiing, the ski laws would not bar you from suing the ski resort. Again, every state’s laws are different. Ski areas are immune from liability in some states for actions that they would be liable for in other states. If you get hurt on the ski slopes, and you believe that your injury may have been caused by the ski resort or one of its employees, it is important that you become familiar with the ski laws of your state.

Ski Resort Liability and Non-Skiing Injuries

If you get injured at a ski resort while away from the slopes, the "inherent risk of skiing" laws do not apply, and the ski resort may be liable to you just like any other person or company. For example, if you slip and fall on a ski resort’s sidewalk, in a ski resort’s building, or even while walking along the bottom of a ski trail on the way to a lift, the ski resort may be liable if you can prove that it was negligent. This type of injury claim would fall under a traditional premises liability or "slip and fall" injury claim.

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