Are Ski Resorts Liable for Accidents on the Slopes?

From New England to the Rocky Mountains, the United States is home to countless ski resorts. A popular winter activity, skiing is a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the winter. However, skiing can be very dangerous, with some accidents resulting in fatal injuries. What happens when injuries occur on the slopes at winter sports resorts? Can resorts be held liable?

The answer to that question is complicated and depends on where and how the injury occurred. States with robust ski industries, such as Colorado or New York, have laws in place that protect resorts from lawsuits when an injury occurs. These laws say that skiing and snowboarding is an inherently dangerous activity. Anyone partaking in these activities assumes a certain level of risk and thus do not have grounds to sue the resort, though the exact laws vary from state to state. If an accident is due to a negligent skier, the injured party can file a civil lawsuit against the individual.

Resort Responsibilities

Not all of a ski resort’s actions on the ski slope fall under the inherent risks of skiing. A legitimate claim can be made if an injury occurs as a result of negligence on behalf of the ski resort, though it takes a significant amount of proof to substantiate these claims. A resort failing to correctly mark and maintain its trails properly, put bumpers on the posts for ski lifts, and properly operate snow machines are all examples where an injured party can take legal action against a resort.

Even with a legitimate claim like the aforementioned, attempting to recover damages lost is challenging. In Colorado, for instance, ski resorts are almost completely immune to lawsuits. To the dismay of accident victims, laws and courts favor ski resorts in most accident cases. Only when an injury occurs due to another person, say a skier hits someone from behind and breaks their legs, will the victim be able to file a clear claim for restitution.

Liability for Non-Skiing Injuries

Ski resorts consist not only of an idyllic, powdery slope, but also lodging with hotel rooms, restaurants, and more. For injuries not related to skiing, liability will work like any other business. If a guest slips and falls on a sidewalk, in the lodge or lobby, gets food poisoning from the restaurant, the resort will be held liable. When hotel guests on the property are injured or have their personal property stolen, these claims fall into the standard premises liability category. The same is true for restaurant-related claims. Ski injuries are an unavoidable reality of skiing. They are always going to happen, and, in most cases, resorts cannot be held liable. However, if the injury is due to a negligent skier or is unrelated to skiing, there may be grounds for a claim.