Alaska Ski Accident Law in a Nutshell
The Alaska Ski Safety Act of 1994 describes the duties, rights, and liability of skiers, snowboarders, aerial tramway passengers, and ski area operators. Here are the key aspects of Alaska ski law in a nutshell.
Ski collision lawsuits allowed against negligent skiers and snowboarders?
Lawsuits allowed against negligent ski resort operators?
Yes. Ski area operators and their employees, including Ski Patrol members, whose negligent and/or grossly negligent actions or failure to act cause property damage or injury to a skier or snowboarder, may be held accountable by the injured person or damaged property owner for violating Alaska ski accident law.
Yes—may include loss of earnings, lost employee benefits, damage to the ability to earn money in the future, loss of time, household expenses, medical and hospital expenses, home and vehicle modification and other out-of-pocket expenses, permanent injury and disability, physical pain and suffering, physical impairment, mental and emotional pain and suffering, inconvenience, emotional stress, impairment of the quality of life, loss of consortium, loss of affection, loss of lifestyle, loss of society, loss of companionship, loss of the aid and comfort of each other, and/or loss of the enjoyment of life.
Punitive damages available?
Yes—Alaska allows the recovery of punitive damages when the conduct of the skier or ski area operator at fault was outrageous, malicious, engaged in with bad motives, or evidenced reckless indifference to the rights or safety of the injured person.
Statute of limitations?
In Alaska, a lawsuit must be filed within two (2) years of the date of the injury or property damage, or the claim will be forever barred.
Duties and Liability of Skiers, Boarders, and Tram Passengers Under Alaska Ski Law
Under Alaska ski accident law, skiers and snowboarders must ski within the range of their abilities, maintain a proper lookout, control their speed and course, heed all posted warnings and signs, ski only in a skiing area designated by a ski area operator, and generally avoid skiing in a manner that could cause injury to themselves and others. Evidence that required signs were present, visible, and readable at the beginning of a given day creates a presumption that all skiers and snowboarders using the ski area that day saw and understood the signs.
A skier or boarder must not overtake any other skier or snowboarder except to avoid contact and must grant the right-of-way to the overtaken person. Before beginning to ski from a stationary position or entering a ski slope or trail from the side, skiers and snowboarders must avoid moving skiers already on the ski slope or trail.
A person skiing downhill has the primary duty to avoid collision with a person or object below the skier. When a ski collision occurs, the uphill skier is presumed to have had the best opportunity to avoid the collision and will generally be held responsible. Alaska ski law does not limit a skier’s or boarder’s right to sue another skier or snowboarder for damage, injury, or death resulting from the other skier’s or boarder’s negligent actions or failure to act.
But as to ski area operators and ski lift operators, since alpine sports are hazardous, under Alaska ski injury law, skiers and boarders assume the risk of, and legal responsibility for, any injury, loss or damage to another person or property resulting from the “inherent danger and risk of skiing.” An “inherent danger and risk of skiing” means a danger or condition that is an integral part of the sports of skiing and boarding, including (i) changing weather conditions, (ii) snow conditions as they exist or may change, including ice, hard pack, powder, packed powder, wind pack, corn, crust, slush, cut-up snow, and machine-made snow, and (iii) surface or subsurface conditions, including bare spots, forest growth, rocks, stumps, streams, streambeds, and trees, or other natural objects.
An “inherent danger and risk of skiing” also includes (i) lift towers, signs, posts, fences or enclosures, hydrants, water pipes, and other man-made structures, and (ii) variations in steepness or terrain, whether natural or as a result of slope design, snowmaking or grooming operations, including roads, catwalks, and other terrain modifications. An injured skier or snowboarder may not file a lawsuit against a ski area operator for an injury resulting from an “inherent danger and risk of skiing.” But an “inherent danger and risk of skiing” specifically does not include the negligent acts or failure to act by ski area operators and ski lift operators that violate their duties and obligations under Alaska ski law (see below)—for which injured skiers and boarders may hold them legally responsible.
That said, skiers and boarders may not (i) ski on a ski slope or trail that has been posted as “closed,” (ii) use a ski or snowboard unless it is equipped with a strap or other device capable of stopping the ski or board should it become detached, from the skier or boarder, (iii) cross the uphill track of a J-bar, T-bar, platter pull, or rope tow except at designated locations, (iv) place an object in an uphill track, (v) move uphill on a tramway or use a ski slope or trail while under the influence of alcohol or impaired by a controlled substance or other drug, (vi) knowingly enter public or private land from an adjoining ski area when the land has been posted as closed, and (vii) stay clear of snow grooming equipment, vehicles, lift towers, signs, and other equipment on the ski slopes and trails.
Except for the purpose of securing aid for a person injured in the collision, a skier or boarder involved in a collision with another skier or snowboarder that results in an injury may not leave the collision scene before providing their name and full contact information to the injured person, an employee of the ski area operator, and/or a member of the Ski Patrol. A skier or snowboarder who leaves the scene of a collision to obtain aid must return to the scene and provide their name and full contact information after obtaining aid.
Before beginning a ski or snowboard competition, ski area operators must allow athletes in the competition to visually inspect the competition course or area. Athletes participating in the competition, however, assume the risk of all course or area conditions, including weather and snow conditions, course construction or layout, and obstacles that a visual inspection would have revealed. Ski area operators are not liable for injuries to competitors injured in a ski or snowboard competition.
Tramway passengers may not board a ski lift if they do not have sufficient physical ability and knowledge or the assistance of an authorized ski area employee. A tramway passenger also may not (i) board or exit a tramway except at designated areas, (ii) intentionally throw an object from a tramway, (iii) act in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of the tramway or contributes to or causes injury to another person, (v) intentionally place an object in the uphill track of a J-bar, T-bar, platter pull, rope tow, or another surface lift that could cause another skier or boarder to fall, and/or (vi) disobey posted or oral instructions regarding the proper or safe use of a tramway.
Violations of Alaska ski law causing property damage or injuring another skier, boarder, or tramway passenger—such as a collision with another skier or boarder—could result in a civil lawsuit by the injured person against the negligent person or ski area operator. Ski resort operators, however, are not liable to skiers or snowboarders for injuries sustained beyond the marked ski area boundaries.
Duties and Liability of Ski Area Operators Under Alaska Ski Accident Law
Under Alaska ski law, ski area operators must properly hire and train their employees, maintain an effective and informative signage system for the protection and instruction of skiers and snowboarders, and operate and maintain their ski areas in a safe and efficient manner.
Ski area operators also must (i) place a sign at or near the beginning of each trail or slope that contains the appropriate symbol of the relative degree of its difficulty, (ii) mark the ski area boundaries in a fashion readily visible to skiers under conditions of ordinary visibility, (iii) mark hydrants, water pipes, and all other man-made structures on slopes and trails that are not readily visible to skiers under conditions of ordinary visibility from a distance of at least 100 feet, (iv) cover man-made structures that create obstructions with shock absorbent material, (v) mark exposed forest growth, rocks, stumps, streambeds, trees, or other natural objects located on a slope or trail that is regularly used by skiers and snowboarders, (vi) mark roads, catwalks, cliffs, or other terrain modifications that are not readily visible to skiers under conditions of ordinary visibility from a distance of at least 100 feet, and (vii) equip motorized snow-grooming and maintenance vehicles and equipment with visible warning lights and a fluorescent flag mounted at least six feet above the bottom of the vehicles’ tracks at any time they are moving on or near a ski slope or trail.
Ski area operators who operate tramways must maintain a signage system with concise, simple, and pertinent information for the protection and instruction of passengers. Signs must be prominently placed on each tramway, readable in conditions of ordinary visibility, and, where applicable, adequately lighted for nighttime passengers. Instructional signs must be posted (i) at or near the loading point of each tramway, (ii) in the interior of each two-car and multicar tramway, (iii) in a conspicuous place at each loading area of two-car and multicar tramways, (iv) at all chair lifts, and (v) at all J-bars, T-bars, platter pulls, rope tows, and any other surface lift. Before opening a tramway to the public each day, a ski resort operator must inspect the tramway for the presence and visibility of all such instructional and warning signs.
Under Alaska ski law, ski area operators may not require a skier or snowboarder who is not involved in a competition or other special event to sign an agreement releasing the operator from liability in exchange for the right to ride a ski area tramway and ski or board in the ski area. Such releases are void as a matter of Alaska law and not enforceable. But ski area operators may revoke the privileges of a person skiing or snowboarding in a careless and reckless manner.
Ski area operators and their employees, including Ski Patrol members, whose negligent and/or grossly negligent actions or failure to act cause property damage or injury to a skier or snowboarder, may be held accountable by the injured person or damaged property owner for violating Alaska ski accident law.
Compensation for Injured Skiers, Boarders, and Tram Passengers Under Alaska Ski Law
Alaska ski accident law allows an injured person (and sometimes, the family of a person injured or killed while skiing) to sue for compensation for his or her injuries due to the actions of another skier, snowboarder, or ski area operator. The types of damages recoverable may include loss of earnings, lost employee benefits, damage to the ability to earn money in the future, loss of time, household expenses, medical and hospital expenses, home and vehicle modification (such as adding a wheelchair ramp, etc.) and other out-of-pocket expenses, permanent injury and disability, physical pain and suffering, physical impairment, mental and emotional pain and suffering, inconvenience, emotional stress, impairment of the quality of life, loss of consortium, loss of affection, loss of lifestyle, loss of society, loss of companionship, loss of the aid and comfort of each other, and/or loss of the enjoyment of life.
Alaska allows an injured person to recover punitive damages when the conduct of the skier, snowboarder, or ski area operator at fault was outrageous, malicious, engaged in bad motives, or evidenced reckless indifference to the rights or safety of the injured person. As a general rule, an award of punitive damages may not exceed the greater of three times the amount of compensatory damages (e.g., medical expenses and lost wages and employment benefits) awarded to the injured skier or snowboarder or $500,000.
We are experienced ski injury attorneys. We represent skiers, snowboarders, and tramway passengers (and their families) who were seriously injured while skiing, boarding, or riding chairlifts at Alyeska Resort, Arctic Valley Ski Area, Eaglecrest Ski Area, Moose Mountain, Mount Eyak Ski Area, Ski Land Ski Area, and other Alaska ski areas.
If you or your loved one was seriously injured or killed while skiing, snowboarding, or riding a ski lift in Alaska, contact us immediately. Gathering the evidence and interviewing witnesses before they leave the area, or their memories fade, is critical to maximizing your recovery. Time is short. The statute of limitations is running. Call us today.