January 2015 Bar Bulletin
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January 2015 Bar Bulletin

The Slippery Slope

Ski Resort Liability for Injuries

By Jack Connelly


Washington is a beautiful state with wonderful natural resources and excellent recreational areas, including its ski resorts. Unfortunately, injuries sometimes occur at these resorts, resulting in litigation.

A lawyer consulted by someone injured on the slopes should be aware of the unique issues involved with a skiing case. These include landowner liability for maintaining a safe area for business invitees, elimination of known hazards, assumption of risk, and release, which apply in a unique setting.

Trial of these cases, like any sports case, involves distinctive issues, dealing with juror biases involving assumption of risk and the facts that jurors may be protective of their local resorts, and operating under the belief that a skier or snowboarder (here these two terms are collectively referred to as "skier") is engaging in a risky sports activity, and heads to the slope knowing that injury can occur.

Maintaining Safe Skiing Areas

The initial law regarding liability of a ski resort is not extremely complicated and is, essentially, premises liability law involving the duty a landowner owes to a business invitee. A skier is a business invitee.1

The ski resort owes a duty to discover dangerous conditions through reasonable inspection and to repair the condition or warn invitees, unless the danger is known or obvious. A ski resort owes a duty to its business invitees to provide reasonably safe facilities.2

Most litigation against resorts occurs against this backdrop. The issues involve the duties of a landowner and whether a hazard should have been removed, or whether skiers were adequately warned. Where hazards are manmade this duty is heightened.3

Beware the Release of Liability

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