Ski and Snowboarding Accidents

British Columbia is home to some of the best mountains and winter sports in North America, if not the world.  Whether it’s skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, sledding, or any of the myriad of other winter sports that exists, most British Columbians have grown up familiar with being on a mountain and enjoying a day out in the snow.

Unfortunately, the reality is that winter sports, especially high-speed sports like skiing and snowboarding, can be very dangerous.  There are many ways to injure yourself or someone else on a ski hill. 

The most common injuries on a ski hill are concussions or broken bones, however injuries on ski hills can be so severe that they result in paralysis or death.

One of the first things to think about when there is an injury on the ski hill is who is responsible for the injury and how will you be able to get compensation?

When the Mountain Is at Fault in an Accident

If your injury is caused by the fault of the ski hill/mountain resort or their employees, you may be out of luck.  Most mountains have sophisticated waivers which absolve them of any and all responsibility for their actions and that of their employees or contractors.

To be effective the waiver in question must have language that refers to the mechanism of the accident that is applicable to your accident and it must exclude liability for injury relating to such an accident.   The ski hill must also take reasonable steps to ensure that the person signing the waiver is aware of the provisions and implications of the waiver.  If a person signs in those circumstances, the waiver would likely be enforceable. 

There are some ways around a waiver, however.  The proper time to provide a waiver/notice of risk is prior to entering into a contract with another party.  In the context of a ski hill, this is before the ticket is purchased.  There could be an argument that you did not have time to review the terms of a waiver/notice of risk prior to entering into the contract (i.e.: purchasing the ticket).  The terms of any waiver/notice of risk also need to be clear and adequately emphasized.  Terms that are difficult to read or not clear may not be enforceable.  Signs warning of danger on the actual ski runs and after the ticket booth may not be of effect as the contract was already entered into.

Generally speaking, attributing fault to a ski hill for a winter sport accident is usually a difficult task.

When Another Person Is at Fault in an Accident

The most common cause of injury on ski hills is another skier or snowboarder.  The Alpine Code of Conduct lays out the responsibilities of those using mountains with others, and they are:

  • Always stay in control
  • Those ahead of you have the right of way
  • Do not stop if you obstruct a run
  • Yield to others uphill before starting a run
  • Maintain control of your equipment
  • Always stay at the scene of an accident
  • Obey all signage

If you run afoul of the Alpine Code of Conduct you could be liable for any injuries caused.  Most injuries on ski hills occur because of skiers or snowboarders who lose control and run into someone ahead of them, or from skiers and snowboarders who lose control of their equipment, and the equipment blocks a run or collides with someone downhill causing injury.

The most important thing to remember if you’re injured due to the negligence of another skier or snowboarder is to get their contact information and a picture of their driver’s license.  In most accidents the ski hill will have first aid attendants and they will take down all parties’ contact information, however it’s best not to rely on others and make sure you have that information.  If you can’t find the person that injured you to serve your lawsuit on, then you can’t make a claim.  So long as you can find them you can still bring a claim.  After that the question is will there be insurance to respond.  Most homeowner or rental insurance policies have an umbrella policy which will cover negligence, such as ski hill accidents.  

If there is no insurance in place to respond to a claim, then you will have to go after the negligent parties’ assets or garnish their wages.  This type of case can be a much more difficult road and sometimes you can end up with a judgement against someone with no assets, which is called a “dry judgment”. 

The lawyers at Taylor & Blair LLP are experienced in dealing with injuries arising from skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports accidents. If you’ve suffered an injury due to a winter sports accident, contact us today as time limits apply to your claim.