Saturday, 20 October 2007

"People who sue ski resorts should be shot"

The above quote is by extreme skier Scott Schmidt in the seminal ski movie The Blizzard of Ahhhs. He was making the point that in many ski areas there were restrictions in where one could ski because the resorts were worried about getting sued if somebody hurt themselves on a dangerous run. The freedom to ski where and how you want was being eroded due to people not taking responsibility for their own actions. His comments were made nearly twenty years ago, but seem more relevant than ever in this age of blame culture, health and safety and no-win-no-fee lawyers.

Skiing, like any other sport, has inherent risks. Being in the mountain environment also has its own risks. Anybody going skiing, especially off piste, needs to accept the risk and take responsibility for themselves. I have been reading case reports of skiing court cases - there have been a number of cases where an out of control skier has been sued after colliding with another skier, and also a number where an out of control skier has sued the resort after crashing into something. Now if the skier is skiing within their ability level there is no reason why they should crash into a slow moving or stationary hazard like a cliff or a piste basher. If resorts are held responsible for the failures of their patrons it results in higher prices more restrictions for all of us.

A large part of the rewards of adventurous sports comes from managing the risk, pushing yourself without putting yourself in excessive danger, and co-existing with the mountain environment. Expecting to be wrapped in cotton wool and protected from all dangers removes the essence from the sport.

I believe we should have the freedom to challenge ourselves to do crazy things on skis (always concious of the safety of others of course). With that freedom must come the responsiblity to accept the blame when it all goes wrong. We cannot expect the ski area to pick up the pieces simply because they allowed us to do it.

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