Idaho Ski Law
Codification of responsibilities and liabilities of skiers, passengers, and ski area operators in Idaho’s Skiing Act, at Idaho Code §§ 6-1101 to -1109. Each party is liable only to the extent that they have breached their statutory duties, and barred from recovery where their own breach has a causal connection to their injury. Under § 6-1103, revised effective 7/1/2014, operators have limited, enumerated duties, which include provision of: signage, equipment markings, and a ski patrol. Under § 6-1103, operators have no duty to make the area safer from “inherent risks,” but if they electively do so, such action does not create a heightened standard of care. Risks of the sport of skiing include “any movement of snow including, but not limited to, slides, sloughs or avalanches’”: Operators have no liability for skier/skier collisions. Id. at § 6-1106. Skiers and passengers must generally conduct themselves within the constraints of their own abilities, ski where designated, not interfere with tram operations, and must use retention devices. Id. Idaho also has an Outfitter and Guide Liability Act, Idaho Code §§ 6-1201 to -1206, that purports to broadly limit liability for outdoor recreational pursuits, although recent court rulings have left many provisions in doubt.
Withers v. Bogus Basin Recreational Ass’n, Inc., 156 P.3d 579 (2007)
Plaintiff, Helga Withers was skiing at Bogus Basin. Employees of Bogus Basin placed a rope from the end of an unloading ramp of the chairlift, Superior, to a garbage can about 30 feet away. The intention of this rope was to route disembarking chairlift passengers away from the ramp. At the time that Plaintiff disembarked from the lift, the trash can had been moved causing the rope to sage. Plaintiff tried to crossover the rope to meet several friends at which point her skis became tangled in the rope and she fell. Plaintiff held Bogus Basin responsible for her injuries, asserting negligence. Defendant moved for motion of summary judgment arguing no liability under the written released signed by Plaintiff and assumption of risk. Motion for summary judgment was granted.
Plaintiff appealed summary judgment asserting that the injuries sustained were not from an inherent risk in skiing. Regardless of the question of inherent risk in tripping over the rope, the court found that the purpose of the rope was to reduce the risk of skiers colliding therefore minimizing risk. The minimization of risk therefore demonstrates that Bogus Basin was not negligent and in fact was assertive in minimizing risk. In addition, Plaintiff argues negligence when Bogus Basin failed to stop the chairlift and fix the rope before allowing other skiers to disembark from the lift. The court finds that Plaintiff had successful disembarked the lift and had skied along the rope for several feet without an issue, therefore there was no negligence on the part of the lift operator. In conclusion, the court affirmed summary judgment.
Prior to 2006
Idaho’s ski safety statute immunizes operators from dangers “inherent” in the sport.Northcutt v. Sun Valley Co., 787 P.2d 1159 (Idaho 1990). Absent an obligation or right to fulfill the enumerated operator duties of § 6-1103, such a party is not a “ski area operator” entitled to statutory liability protections. Davis v. Sun Valley Ski Educ. Found., Inc., 941 P.2d 1301 (Idaho 1997) (non-profit skiing instruction foundation potentially liable for negligent training course design). The ski safety statute has eliminated the common law standard of care, per Long v. Bogus Basi Recreational Ass’n, Inc., 869 P.2d 230 (Idaho 1994). Ski area operators are held to the highest degree of care in the operation of lifts and tows. Hunt v. Sun Valley, Inc., 561 F.2d 744 (9th Cir. 1977).