Now that cold weather has arrived in many parts of California, skiers and snowboarders are heading to the slopes. Skiing and snowboarding can be fun, but these sports can also be dangerous. Although the accident risk is much lower than other sports, ski and snowboard injuries can be serious or even fatal.
Each year, approximately 10 million people participate in snow sports. On average, 42 people die per year, while another 47 suffer serious injuries. Nearly 20% of skiing and snowboarding injuries are head-related. A fall or collision with another object can cause a head injury. Knee injuries are more common, and account for about 40% of all ski injuries. Speed, positioning and directional shifts can cause the knee to become injured. Ligament damage is a common ski injury, as is knee joint and patella dislocation. Even though ski injuries are not particularly common, they can result in long-term medical conditions.
What happens if a skier or snowboarder is injured on the slopes? Is the resort liable?The ski resort is not always at fault, especially when a skier places himself or herself in a dangerous situation. Ski resorts do owe patrons a duty of care–to keep the premises reasonably safe for resort goers. This means that trails must be maintained and ski lifts should be properly functioning.
Employees must also behave in a safe and professional manner. For example, novice skiers often come to resorts for ski lessons. If instructors force students to ski in an area and manner above their skill level, then the instructor and resort can be held liable for resulting injuries. Likewise, skiers and snowboarders must understand their limits and obey signage. They should stay out of forbidden areas and use trails based on their skill level.