Two ski states are considering expanding the immunity enjoyed by ski area operators. Both Connecticut and Idaho have ski liability bills which received preliminary approval in their respective legislatures last week.
In Idaho, State House members voted 61-8 to give ski areas renewed protections from lawsuits that arise when customers are hurt in terrain parks. Last Tuesday’s vote moves the measure to the Senate. The Idaho Ski Areas Association supports the bill limiting liability arising from skiers and snowboarders using, among other things, man-made rails, jumps and hits on resort mountains that have become popular in recent years. Rep. Luke Malek of Coeur d’Alene, the bill’s Republican sponsor, said those using ski areas — and riding terrain-park features — need to accept the inherent risk that accompanies their activities.
In Hartford, the General Assembly is considering a bill that would make safety the primary responsibility of skiers — and not the operators of ski areas. The proposed legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Janice Giegler, comes after a 14-year-old boy fell 20 feet from a ski lift at Mohawk Mountain in January.
The new bill would require the use of “restraining devices” on ski lifts, making safety bars mandatory. The legislation would also require that resort owners post instructions and notices pertaining to skier safety clearly around their resorts.
The bill would put responsibility for using the safety restraint bar while riding a ski lift on the individual skier instead of the mountain owners and operators. Although ski areas in Connecticut already use such safety practices, Giegler says this bill would formalize ski safety procedure across the state, much as it has been done by their neighbor Vermont.
Giegler also noted that the proposed bill would include additional requirements such as ensuring that safety padding be added to snow making equipment and radio towers that sometimes appear along ski trails. Skiers frequently suffer serious injuries from colliding with these man-made structures.