It’s standard practice in the United States to print, on the back of each lift ticket, a release stating that the skier accepts and voluntarily assumes the risks of injury, and, in turn, releases the resort from all liability while he’s skiing. Is this binding?

In a case in Wisconsin, the courts upheld the validity of such a release in barring the parents of an 11-year-old girl from suing a resort when she died after crashing into the unprotected steel legs of a lift tower. The parents appealed on the grounds the resort should have padded the tower - customary at most ski areas. The appeal was denied.

In Vermont, the courts held that, while skiers assume risks, the ski resorts themselves must also exercise due care in protecting skiers. That ruling came after a skier crashed into an unpadded steel pole and suffered permanent injuries. The resort paid.

Certainly skiers, like participants in all sports in which there’s an inherent risk of injury, do accept this fact when they slip into their skis. But at the same time, it’s clear that resort owners also have a responsibility to skiers from known dangers.

What’s the bottom line? Between skiers becoming increasingly aware of their own responsibilities, and the efforts of resorts to prevent problems that are within their ability to control, skiing at resorts has never been safer.

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