Have you Ever Wondered: What’s that Language on the Back of Your Ski Lift Ticket?
No skier enjoys the process of buying a lift ticket. It takes forever to get from the car to the ticket window and once you get there you always pay more than you’d prefer. Right when you think the frustrating part is complete, turn over the ticket and you’ll find a few paragraphs of fine print. My guess is that many people haven’t read the language or taken the time to think about what it means or how it applies. Not to worry, that’s where we come in.
The language on the back of the lift ticket is called an injury disclaimer and/or release. In short what these disclaimers do is relieve the ski resort of responsibility if the skier does certain things while he/she is skiing. The skier implicitly agrees to the terms as part of purchasing the ticket and using the resort for the day. So you might be thinking, “Does this mean that regardless of how injured I am, the ski resort has no responsibility?” Well, as with most legal questions the answer is……it depends.
Fortunately we have laws in Washington which impose specific responsibilities on resorts which can’t be disclaimed. The main responsibility imposed on resorts concerns signs or markers. A resort has to place signs by and/or around dangerous conditions that are known to the resort. The purpose of the sign is to notify the skier of the dangerous condition. If there are text on the signs, it must be bold, easily visible and in a well-lit area. If a skier decides to ignore the signs, well, that’s on them. The one large exception to these responsibilities concerns back country skiing. If a skier decides to venture out of the resort area then all bets are off. The laws state that any person skiing outside the ski area boundary shall be responsible for any injuries or losses resulting from his or her action. So tread lightly my friends if you decide to go “under the ropes.” It may be your goal to be alone practically speaking, but you’ll be all alone legally speaking as well.
As with all laws, when applied to real situations, the lines are often blurred. Accidents on the slopes may be caused by a number of factors including speed, resort negligence, or even a grouse! Therefore many cases are often convoluted and extremely fact specific. The few cases that result in clear resort liability normally involve unmarked hazards, runs, snow equipment or improperly constructed jumps. Beyond that, there is a lot that is left up to the skier. Realistically this kind of makes sense. The skier most of the time is in the best position to prevent an injury from happening. He or she controls their safety by maintaining safe speed, good judgment, and an awareness for their surroundings. However, if the injury is outside the skier’s control or unknown, that is when a resort’s liability comes in. If the resort feels like there is any potential for liability at all, the first thing they do is look to the disclaimer to see if it can get them out of trouble.
Although it may be a relief to hear that the resort disclaimers are not air tight, the cheapest way to avoid a skiing injury is to not ski beyond your ability. We’ll see you on the slopes!