The Risky Business of Winter Sports

With the change of seasons and the weather growing colder, we begin to think about the winter months – and winter activities – ahead.

A recent Ontario Superior Court case, Trimmeliti v Blue Mountain Resorts Limited, 2015 ONSC 2301, involved an intermediate level skier who suffered a broken collarbone when he collided with an orange, mesh reflector ribbon that was used to close a ski run. The plaintiff skier held a season pass, and he skied at the resort for a number of years.  He claimed that snow-making equipment and dim lighting at the closed run obscured his view of the mesh ribbon and caused his accident.

The Court found that nothing obscured the plaintiff’s view of the mesh ribbon. Further, as the plaintiff was an experienced skier who was familiar with the resort, he ought to have known that the resort typically marked closed runs in this manner.

The evidence demonstrated that the plaintiff was not keeping proper lookout or maintaining sufficient control, as “[a] prudent, in control skier should and would have been able to stop or avoid it.” Proper lookout means that a skier has “a rate of speed and control that is consistent with his or her actual field of vision and stopping distance.” This is important “to be able to stop or avoid obstacles or dangers as they become visible within the field of vision permitted by conditions at all times.”

The plaintiff’s claim also failed because of the terms of a waiver of liability that he signed when purchasing his season pass. He initialed next to the waiver clause and signed the document, acknowledging that he had read and understood it. According to the Court, “[i]t would have been impossible for any literate person to have signed this document – even if they did no more than scan the heading– and remain ignorant of its general purpose and intent.” Further, this type of waiver was to be expected, as skiers understand that ski resorts do not provide “blanket personal injury insurance” for this potentially dangerous activity.

The plaintiff chose to sign the waiver and ignore the potential consequences, and as such, the defendant could not be held liable for his injuries. The plaintiff’s claim was dismissed.

Be cautious when you are engaging in potentially dangerous activities this winter, and remember that waivers are an acknowledgement of the inherent risks of an activity, which can be enforced later if an accident did happen.

Please note that this article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to confer legal advice or opinion. If you have any further questions please consult a lawyer. Please note as well that many of the statements are general principles which may vary on a case by case basis.