Skiing and snowboarding are popular activities, with the National Ski Areas Association reporting 9.8 million skiers and snowboarders on U.S. slopes in 2011. The state of Alaska has seven ski resorts, most of those located near the coast, which produces ideal snow conditions. Alyeska is Alaska’s premier ski resort, and one of three resorts located from downtown Anchorage.
Eaglecrest is located 12 miles from Juneau and is only a short flight north of Seattle. In the state of Alaska, heli-skiing is world-renowned, and some companies offer cat skiing as well. (Heli-skiing is off-trail downhill skiing or snowboarded reached by helicopter, while cat skiing allows access to untouched powder via a snowcat).
The National Ski Areas Association found that 45 catastrophic injuries occurred at U.S. ski areas during the 2015-16 season. A catastrophic injury is considered any form of paralysis, life-altering head injuries, broken backs, or broken necks. Of those 45 catastrophic injuries, 42 were male, and 3 were female. Most of these injuries were for skiers, who were mostly (65 percent) wearing helmets at the time of their injury.
Collisions with trees or other stationary objects were the primary cause of ski and snowboard accidents with injuries, while collisions with other skiers or snowboarders accounted for only about 6.4 percent of the total number of accidents. None of these accidents with injuries occurred from a fall off a chairlift; while many people believe chairlifts are dangerous, in fact, you are five times more likely to suffer a fatal injury while riding an elevator than while riding a ski chairlift.
Skiers are catastrophically injured about twice as often as snowboarders, however, this statistic is not a true picture because skiers make up about 75 percent of those on the slopes while snowboarders make up only 25 percent. The use of a helmet while skiing or snowboarding has been shown to reduce the incidence of a head injury from 30-50 percent. When rated with the 20 sports and recreational activities most likely to result in head injuries, winter sports (skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling) rank at number ten, following cycling, football, baseball, basketball, water sports, recreational vehicles, soccer, skateboards and scooters, and exercise/health clubs.
Was There Fault Involved in Your Ski or Snowboard Accident?
Although skiing and snowboarding can offer fun and exhilarating winter sports opportunities, injuries can occur. Most skiing and snowboarding injuries happen by accident, although in some cases, a skier or snowboarder can suffer injuries as a result of another’s negligence. If another skier or snowboarder crashes into you by sheer accident, then he or she is probably not responsible for your injuries and subsequent damages.
Most states—at least those which offer winter sports—have a standard which governs the conduct of skiers and snowboarders. Alaska’s negligence standards are detailed under Alaska Statutes, Section 5.45.010 (2013). The statutes note that skiers have an obligation to ski within their own abilities and to be aware of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing.
That being said, when another skier or the ski resort fails to act with reasonable care, and this failure resulted in an accident with injuries, then the person or entity could be responsible. As an example, if a beginning skier immediately begins skiing on the advanced trails, and as a result runs over you, causing serious injury, that skier could be held liable. The Skier Responsibility Code states that skiers must always stay in control and must always be able to stop, avoiding objects and other people.
People ahead of you always have the right of way, you must never stop in an area where you are not visible from above, and prior to starting downhill or merging into a trail, you have a responsibility to look uphill, yielding to others. If the skier or snowboarder who ran into you violated any of these guidelines, there could be negligence involved. Reckless skiing occurs when a skier or snowboarder knows his or her actions are likely to be unsafe, but they do it anyway. An example of reckless skiing behavior could occur when a very experienced skier skis full speed through a beginner slope, filled with unskilled skier, running into one of them.
Preserving Evidence Following a Skiing or Snowboarding Accident
If you are injured on a ski slope, you are likely not in any shape to take photos and gather evidence. If you are with friends or family members, and you are medically able, ask that someone in your group take as many photographs of the scene of the accident as possible, making sure to photograph the accident from all angles. When possible, include photographs of your ski tracks and the negligent person’s ski tracks, as well as damage to skis or other equipment. It is also important to collect names and contact information of all those who witnessed the collision.
Potential Damages in a Ski or Snowboarding Accident Claim
A ski or snowboard accident is like a car accident in that when you are injured by the negligence or recklessness of another, you are entitled to damages. These damages can include your medical expenses (current and future), lost earnings if your injuries are so severe you are unable to return to work, future lost earnings, and pain and suffering associated with the accident. If the at-fault person has no insurance and no assets, it can be difficult to obtain damages, however, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance—if the person carries one of these types of insurance—could potentially pay for your damages. You could also have a claim against the ski resort if the terrain on which you were skiing or snowboarding was poorly maintained, poorly designed or poorly marked, or if your skiing or snowboarding instructor took you to the terrain which was clearly beyond your capability level.
Getting Help for Your Ski or Snowboard Accident from the Ringstad Law Office
If you have been injured in a ski or snowboard accident caused by the negligence or recklessness of another person or the ski resort, Ringstad Law Office, P.C. can help. These types of lawsuits can be complex, with outcomes depending on local rules, regulations, and statutes. Ringstad Law Office, P.C. has extensive experience in litigation for skiing and snowboarding accidents, however, we also find it important to deal in the unvarnished facts. This means that we will be upfront regarding your ability to secure a settlement in your ski or snowboarding accident. Contact Ringstad Law Office, P.C. today for a comprehensive evaluation of your ski or snowboarding accident.