Planning Winter Fun? Here Are Tips for Avoiding a Slope Accident
December 22, 2021
More than 9 million people take to the slopes each winter in the U.S. to enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing. However, going down a snowy mountain at a high rate of speed does present risks.
According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), data for the past 10 years show an average of 40 deaths annually from skiing and snowboarding accidents. Serious injuries, defined as paralysis, head and brain injuries, and other severe trauma, occurred at a rate of 44 per year nationally for the same period. Thousands more people are treated each year for broken bones, soft tissue damage, and other injuries.
Safety on the slopes is a collaborative effort between slope users, owners, and managers. All parties must prioritize safety. Ski resorts owe guests an enjoyable experience that considers their welfare and the safety of their premises and equipment. Guests deserve to enjoy their slope experience, but they must also take personal responsibility for their safety and the safety of others.
As thousands of people begin hitting the ski slopes in Pennsylvania and nationwide, there will be injuries. To determine who is liable for an injury, it is advisable to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible after an accident.
What Are the Responsibilities of a Ski Resort?
Ski resort owners and operators must make every effort to ensure their guests are protected from harm. An average ski resort will be full of people of all ages and experience levels. A slope may accommodate a child just learning to ski, an experienced snowboarder, or a cautious older skier. Resort owners and managers must ensure the safety of all visitors, no matter their age or experience. The following are ways they can keep visitors safe.
- Slope, Run, and Trail Maintenance
Resorts must ensure that the paths for skiers and snowboarders are free from obstructions or other impairments that could affect a guest’s ride and safety. This includes maintaining the integrity of the snow or powder and ensuring that trails, slopes, and runs are closed in adverse weather conditions.
Slope managers must ensure guests know where it is safe to ski, snowboard, and snow tube, especially for inexperienced guests and children. Resorts should have clear barriers and signage to keep guests within the secure areas managed by the resort. Signs indicating that a guest is leaving approved slopes or other areas should be obvious.
- Well-Maintained Ski Lifts
Lifts are an essential part of the slope experience. Resort operators must check for the safe operation of the lifts every day and repair them as needed. They should close any lift that is not fully operational. A fall from a lift could be devastating or even fatal. Lifts and related equipment have been known to fail, leading to valid legal claims for injuries and other damages.
Many skiers and other slope guests prefer to rent their equipment from the resort. Resorts must ensure that their rental equipment is in top working condition at all times to ensure the safety of renters.
Resorts should have help available on all slopes and for any activity being performed, whether skiing, snowboarding, or snow tubing. Often called ski patrols, these helpers are charged with stopping unsafe behaviors and helping people in an accident.
A resort has walkways and interiors that they must keep safe for those walking or taking a break from the slopes. Snow and ice can easily spread at a resort, but owners should keep these walkways safe to prevent slip and fall accidents.
- Warnings and Instructions
Resorts should have instructions and expectations for the safe enjoyment of the slopes posted clearly and frequently throughout the facility and slope/trail areas. They should also post special warnings about weather or slope conditions in prominent locations, so guests know to use caution.
How Can I Avoid a Slope Accident?
Skiers, snowboarders, and snow tubers have personal responsibility for making their experiences safe. Every person should do the following:
- Always stay in control and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.
- People ahead of you have the right-of-way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.
- Do not stop where you obstruct a trail or are not visible from above.
- Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, only move forward when it is safe.
- Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.
- Before using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride, and unload safely.
In addition, anyone enjoying winter sports on the slopes should:
- Be in shape: Winter sports require stamina and the ability to use muscles that might have gone slack in the warmer weather. Getting in shape for ski season can lessen injuries.
- Hydrate: As with any sport, hydration is key to endurance and safety.
- Check equipment: Before hitting the slopes, make sure any equipment you will use is in good working condition includes skis, boots, bindings, poles, tubes, and boards.
- Warm up: Going from a warm car or lodge to the cold can affect muscles. Do a few stretches to loosen and warm up muscles.
- Know your limits: It is probably a good idea to stay off advanced trails if you are a beginner. You will protect yourself as well as the more experienced guests sharing the slope. Also, if you are feeling fatigued after a long day on the slopes, do not push yourself.
- Wear protective equipment: Helmets, sunglasses, appropriate gloves, and proper ski or snowsuits may lessen injuries in an accident. Helmets are essential for anyone, whether a skier, snowboarder, snow tuber, child, teenager, or adult.
What Should I Do After a Slope Accident?
The most important step is to seek medical attention. A ski patrol person will either find you or be notified of the accident by others on the slope. A medical team will also most likely be called. Even if your injuries seem minor, accept the medical help. Some injuries take some time to show up.
If you were injured, report the accident to resort personnel if you did not report it to the patrol person. The resort must be aware of your accident, as they could be liable for your damages. Get a copy of the accident report as well as any documentation from the ski patrol.
If you are not transferred to a hospital after an accident, follow up with your doctor or an emergency or urgent care facility. Sometimes, brain trauma or other injuries show up hours or days later, so always seek medical attention when you do not feel well. It could be related to the slope accident.
Most ski resorts make guests or season pass holders sign a waiver absolving them from liability for injuries. Read these waivers carefully. You do not want to give up your right to a legal claim against the ski resort.
It may also be a good idea to contact a lawyer. There is a chance the ski resort can be held responsible for your injuries due to a malfunctioning ski lift, unsafe rental equipment, unmaintained trails, slippery walkways, or another reason.
A third party, such as a product designer, manufacturer, or assembler, could also be held liable if there was a defect in ski equipment, protective gear, or a ski lift, for example. Let your lawyer determine the right responsible party.
How Can Galfand Berger LLP Help Me After a Slope Accident?
When a premises owner is negligent in keeping their property and equipment safe, our legal team will work hard to protect your rights. We have successfully handled many premises liability cases. Some examples include:
- $300,000 settlement for slip and fall at vacation rental. A client suffered severe injuries to her right leg when she tripped and fell down a flight of stairs at a rental villa in the Poconos. As she approached the top of the stairs, her foot got caught on raised carpeting, causing her to trip toward the wall of the staircase, which also had no handrail. We thoroughly investigated the accident and determined the hotel property owner was negligent. We helped our client obtain a settlement of $300,000.
- Galfand Berger LLP wins rare unanimous 7-0 PA Supreme Court decision. Two lower courts dismissed our client’s claims alleging that the defendants acted grossly negligent in operating a snow tubing facility by using kitchen mats to bring riders to a stop. Michael Malvey of Galfand Berger LLP believed that the lower courts wrongly decided the issues and that our client deserved to have their case heard by a jury. After the appeal was granted, Mr. Malvey argued our client’s case before all seven justices of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In a rare unanimous 7-0 decision, the Court ruled that the two lower courts did indeed wrongly dismiss our client’s catastrophic injury lawsuit.
Philadelphia Premises Liability Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Advocate for Those Injured by Negligent Property Owners
Property owners must keep their premises safe for visitors. If you were injured due to a property owner’s negligence, contact one of our Philadelphia premises liability lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP today. Contact us online or call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.