Claiming Negligence in Ski Resort Accidents

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Claiming Negligence in Ski Resort Accidents

Ski Resort Accidents


This winter, thousands of Canadian skiers will hit the slopes for fun in the snow. There are over three hundred ski resorts in Canada, with an estimated 4.3 million visitors annually. For the vast majority of these skiers, all that they’ll take home will be memories of a good time. But skiing is an activity that carries with it inherent danger, and a small percentage of those 4.3 million skiers will suffer an injury – perhaps even a life-changing traumatic event. If you or a family member has been injured on a ski slope, do you have any legal recourse?


The answer, as it is so often in legal matters: it depends. The outcome of civil suits in the case of ski accidents is highly variable, as each unique set of circumstances must be considered on its own merits.


Ski resorts in Canada ask guests to sign a waiver before allowing them on the hill. This waiver generally protects the resort from being held liable if you suffer an injury while skiing. Because skiing is an activity that depends on an individual’s training and skill, each individual is considered to be responsible for his or her own safety.

However, there are some circumstances where negligence on the part of the ski resort may be claimed. If another skier behaves recklessly, causing you to have an accident, you may be able to make a claim against that individual. If your ski equipment malfunctioned, you may be able to file a claim against the manufacturer.


Filing a Claim Against the Resort


In order to make a claim against a ski resort, you must be able to prove that the staff were negligent in their “duty of care” toward skiers. That is, the ski resort assumes the responsibility to do all they can to ensure that conditions are safe for their guests. If it can be proved that resort employees fell short in this duty, you may be able to successfully make a personal injury claim.


The types of things that might constitute negligence on the part of the ski resort include:

  • Poor design of the ski runs
  • Obstacles on a ski hill (such as machinery)
  • Failure to maintain the ski hill properly
  • Renting unsafe skis, bindings, poles, or other equipment
  • Operating an unsafe ski lift or tow rope
  • Improper signage


However, any claim against the ski resort depends on the type of waiver you signed as well as the degree of negligence demonstrated. For a waiver to be effective, the language used in it must specifically exclude the resort for liability as a result of its negligence, and it must pertain to the specific circumstances of the accident. For example, if the waiver only pertains to accidents on the ski hill, and you break your spine slipping on the front step of the ski lodge, you may be able to make a claim.


Be aware, also, that sometimes you are not even asked to sign a waiver; many times it’s merely printed on the back of your lift ticket.


Law as it pertains to waivers is constantly evolving in Canada, so it is worth consulting a personal injury lawyer about your case even when a waiver appears to be airtight.


Accidents Caused by Other Skiers


Often skiing injuries are caused when two or more skiers collide on the slope. If you have been injured by the recklessness of another skier, you must be able to prove that the other skier acted negligently. The “Alpine Responsibility Code” outlines how skiers should conduct themselves. These guidelines include:


  1. Always stay in control. You must be able to stop, or avoid other people or objects.
  2. People ahead of you have the right-of-way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.
  3. Do not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above.
  4. Before starting downhill or merging onto a trail, look uphill and yield to others.
  5. If you are involved in or witness a collision/accident you must remain at the scene and identify yourself to the Ski Patrol.
  6. Always use proper devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
  7. Observe and obey all posted signs and warnings.
  8. Keep off closed trails and obey area closures.
  9. You must not use lifts or terrain if your ability is impaired through the use of alcohol or drugs.
  10. You must have sufficient physical dexterity, ability, and knowledge to safely load, ride, and unload lifts. If in doubt, ask the lift attendant.


If you can prove that your injury was caused by negligence on the part of another skier, you may be successful in pursuing a claim against him or her. Remember to document everything you can, including all medical records, and the condition of the ski hill.


If you’ve had a ski resort accident and sustained an injury, consult a personal injury lawyer today.