Last season, over fifty-six million thrill-seekers visited various ski resorts located throughout the United States. Unfortunately, some of these visits resulted in serious injuries. Often, these injuries resulted from equipment failure, ski lift accidents, and dangerous collisions involving other individuals and objects. This article introduces the concept of assumption of risk and provides an overview of accidents experienced in the United States.
National Ski Areas Association
The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) is a trade association that represents hundreds of winter resorts located throughout the United States. The NSAA, headquartered in New York, collects information each year about the ski industry. This information includes statistics about accidents and injuries that occurred on the ski resorts the NSAA represents.
The NSAA separates its data by sharing statistics per region. Of the fifty-six million visits it estimates throughout the United States, the Northeast represents the second most-visited region visited last season. Over thirteen million ski visits occurred in this region, making up almost a quarter of the total visits for the entire country. This regional information is put together to make up the NSAA’s annual report.
The NSAA breaks up its annual report by sharing information related to both “catastrophic injuries” and fatal accidents. The NSAA reports that the majority of these accidents occurred as a result of collisions. These collisions involved objects such as trees, equipment, other individuals, and impacts with the snow. In addition, the NSAA found that the majority of fatal accidents that occurred involved individuals who were reported as not wearing a helmet.
Catastrophic injuries, a term the NSAA uses to refer to serious medical problems, includes life-altering head injuries, broken necks, broken backs, and paralysis. According to the NSAA, these serious accidents were on a steep decline from accidents that occurred during the previous season.
According to the NSAA, thirty-two individuals died during their ski resort visit last season in the United States. Of these fatal accidents, the majority involved skiers. While these fatal accidents are quite rare, the NSAA reports that there was a small increase from fatal accidents during the previous season.
Assumption of Risk
When discussing activities that are inherently dangerous, such as skiing and snowboarding, the concept of assumption of risk must be addressed. Assumption of risk is a defense used frequently in personal injury and negligent cases. If a plaintiff knowingly enters into a potentially dangerous situation, it is often argued that the injured party assumes the risk of injury, absolving the defendant of liability. Skiing, snowboarding, and related actions like using a ski-lift, are risky by nature. Given the risky nature of skiing, snowboarding, and related actions like using a ski-lift, participants of these activities willingly accept the possibility of accident or injury. Therefore, assumption of risk releases mountain resorts of liability in many accident and injury cases, especially those involving ski-lifts or collisions.
Overall, the NSAA reports provide important information about being safe while skiing and snowboarding. Visits to winter resorts in the United States may result in serious injuries, but preventative measures (such as wearing protective gear) may be taken. It is important to take such precautions because in the event of accident or injury, most lawsuits against the resort will not stand up in court.