State law protects West Virginia skiers by specifically requiring slope operators to take certain steps to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition. As a recent case out of the Supreme Court shows, however, those obligations are limited, and skiers of all ages assume some of the risk that comes with hitting the slopes.
JW was 12 years old when she was injured in a skiing accident at the Timberline resort in Davis, W.V. She was skiing down a beginner slope at the time, when JW skied off the trail to avoid another skier who had cut in front of her. She crashed into an electrical box six to eight feet off of the trail, which Timberline used to make snow, fracturing her left tibia. JW’s father (Father) sued the resort under the West Virginia Skiing Responsibility Act, alleging that Timberline failed to properly mark the box with warning signs and failed to maintain the slope in a reasonably safe condition.
Father said that he and JW had skied the slope several times that day, and neither of them noticed the box marked with warning signs. He also argued that the resort should have taken extra steps to protect skiers, including by padding the box. A trial court disagreed. It found that there was no evidence to support Father’s claim that the box wasn’t marked. Instead, a ski patroller who arrived on the scene after the accident said a warning sign marked the box and provided photo evidence to back it up. The court said the resort wasn’t required to pad the box because it wasn’t located on the slope. The court concluded that Timberline didn’t breach the WVSRA, and it granted summary judgment to the resort.