Ski resort negligence or just plain stupidity? Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna, BC, Canada, was sued after a snowboarder rode off a snow ledge into the car parking lot, breaking his leg in the process on March 4th, 2013.
The plaintiff Mr Gary Colin Fillingham says:
“he was injured when a known route from “Highway 33,” a ski run on Big White, to the Solana Ridge condominium complex (“Solana Ridge”) led him over a sheer ten-foot drop down into a parking lot.” – Court Filing.
Highway 33 is a green run that provides access to various runs and areas at Big White. Being a green run skiers and snowboarders are expected to ski and snowboard at a leisurely pace along this run, this ensures they stay in control and can see any obstacles or changes in terrain as they approach new areas along the run.
Snowboarder Gary and his father used this shortcut safely earlier on in the day, however, a few hours later there was a 10-foot sheer drop into the parking lot. A witness told the court that one of the snow clearing contractors cleared snow creating the drop and then failed to close the rope line. According to court statements Colin and his father used this run regularly and responsibly; when the rope line was open they used it and when the rope line was shut they did not use it.
The reason they used this shortcut when the rope line is open is due to the gradual slope it offers into the parking lot at Solana Ridge where the family’s condo is situated. Justice Elaine J. Adair supported the plaintiff’s claim that he sustained serious injuries and agreed that the resort is to blame however she agreed that their comprehensive waiver was a complete defense for the resort.
Adair stated that:
‘In not taking steps after clearing snow in the Solana Ridge parking lot to ensure the rope line at the shortcut from Highway 33 was closed, Big White Limited failed to take reasonable care and was negligent’.
The judge ruled in favour of Big White due to the comprehensive waiver/exclusion clause guests sign to get their tickets. The resorts exclusion clause is quite comprehensive and states that ticket holders:
“assume all risk of personal injury, death or property loss resulting from any cause whatsoever including but not limited to: the risks, dangers and hazards of skiing, snowboarding, tubing, skating, cycling, hiking and all other recreational activities; the use of ski lifts.”
In signing the exclusion clause/waiver skiers and snowboarders at resorts around the world are also expected to follow the Alpine Responsibility Code.