The law of the slopes
December 27, 2013
Most are familiar with road rage – when a frustrated motorist verbally or physically lashes out at another road traveler. But what about skier rage?
At Snowbasin earlier this month, a 17-year-old snowboarder was on the receiving end of some skier rage after the snowboarder collided with a young boy on skis. The boy’s father skied up to the snowboarder immediately after the collision, verbally berated him, cocked one of his son’s recently-detached skis above him as if about to beat the boarder with it (thankfully, he didn’t) and finally slapped the boarder’s head.
The snowboarder was wearing a helmet cam at the time and the video was soon being widely viewed online.
Though the father was understandably upset, his subsequent actions became the real story that drew attention. The ordinary laws prohibiting assault and battery apply to the slopes just as they do everywhere else in the country. Just because you’re frustrated or angry doesn’t give you a license to act like a maniac.
And just like when driving, collisions are to some extent unavoidable. Accidents happen.
Organizations across North America tout the skier and snowboarder responsibility code as the standard code of conduct to which individuals should abide. "Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects," the code reads. "People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them."
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While a violation of the code is not illegal – the code isn’t itself a law – plain violation of it can serve as evidence that a skier or boarder was acting reckless or dangerously. The code isn’t just a list of suggestions – it’s the generally accepted standard for interacting with others on the slopes.
"Collisions, both with other skiers/snowboarders and with moveable and immoveable objects, are a common cause of actionable ski/snowboard injuries," wrote attorney David S. Kottler in the Utah Bar Journal. "Liability for collisions may be imposed upon anyone whose negligence contributed to the collisions ."
If you collide with someone on the mountain and end up in a legal dispute, your compliance (or non-compliance) with the responsibility code will surely be an important subject.
There are also several laws in Utah that specifically apply to skier/snowboarder collisions.
PCMR and Deer Valley are subject to Park City municipal laws and Canyons is subject to Summit County laws (and parts of Deer Valley are subject to Wasatch County laws). Those municipal and county codes include several laws that apply specifically to conduct on the slopes.
The codes prohibit reckless skiing and snowboarding but also go a bit further. In fact, they place certain affirmative duties on skiers and snowboarders any time they are involved in a collision with another skier or snowboarder.
"Any skier or snowboarder involved in a collision resulting in injury to any person shall immediately stop at the scene of such collision and provide such care and treatment to any injured person as is reasonably necessary. Such assistance may include warding off other skiers while waiting for aid or contacting ski area personnel or ski patrol to advise that aid is necessary," the Park City municipal code reads at Section 8-2-8(c). It’s also a requirement, in such situations, to provide your contact info to ski patrol before leaving the scene.
Violation of this law, or the analogous ones in the county code, can cost an individual up to $1,000 and/or up to six months in the county jail.