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Winter Sports Claims

Making Your Winter Sports Claim

The law that applies to snow sports claims, including who a claim can be pursued against and where the claim should be pursued, can be complex. This is mainly for the following reasons:

  1. Winter sports holidays can be purchased in many different ways (e.g. over the telephone, online, or through a tour operator);
  2. Tour operators are innovating and adding value in a number of different ways (i.e. by introducing more all-inclusive packages, or offering deals on lift passes and childcare);
  3. European laws have changed over the past few years, which means that claims can now sometimes be pursued in this country directly against insurers in EU member states; and
  4. Different countries have different laws which apply to snow sports accident claims.


Categories Of Snow Sports Accidents

Those who take part in winter sports can fall victim to injury in many different ways. There are, however, five broad categories of snow sports accidents:

1. Skier And Snowboarder Collisions

Respect for other skiers and snowboarders on the slopes is paramount. The most common accident is a collision between two skiers/snowboarders. Not all skiers and snowboarders are as careful as they are required to be by law, which creates dangerous situations for everyone involved. The International Ski Federation rules place the responsibility on the "uphill" skier/snowboarder to avoid colliding with those below him or her, because the “downhill” skier/snowboarder can’t see what’s coming from behind them.

One of the key issues in any collision case is proving who the “uphill” or overtaking skier/snowboarder was. This isn’t the end of the story, however, as all skiers and snowboarders must ensure that they travel within their own ability and keep a proper lookout to avoid other skiers.

If you’re involved in a collision, you should gather the names and addresses of the people involved and any witnesses, so that a picture of what happened can be put together.

2. Claims Involving Ski Lifts And Other Piste Machinery

Sadly, it’s all too common for accidents to happen when a skier is getting on or off a chair lift. 
These can be caused by:

  • chair lifts malfunctioning due to lack of proper maintenance;
  • incorrect mounting/dismounting as a result of poor instruction by the lift attendants;
  • inappropriate placement of ski-lifts.

In such cases, the skier can fall from some height after failing to dismount correctly at the right time, or end up being dragged by the lift having not been able to mount properly.

Those who operate the ski areas must ensure the safety of all those who are using the slopes, and if you’ve been harmed as a result of a failure in this duty you can claim compensation for your injuries or any financial losses incurred.

The ski lifts, snowmobiles and other machinery that are used to maintain a ski area can be extremely dangerous if they aren’t properly operated or are defective in some way. When snowmobiles and piste-bashers are travelling uphill and in the opposite direction of the skiers coming downhill, a hazardous situation can arise.

If the operator of these machines or lifts is an employee of the ski area, the resort is responsible for the actions of its employees. If you’ve been hurt in a ski lift accident or an accident caused by improper use of other machinery, you can recover compensation for the injuries you’ve suffered.

3. Claims Arising Out Of Faulty Ski Equipment

These cases generally come about when the bindings that attach the ski boot to the ski fail to release when they should do. If your ski bindings are set properly, taking into account your height and weight, they’re supposed to release your boots from the skis when you fall in order to avoid serious injury.

If the bindings have been incorrectly set by the staff at the ski shop, or if the bindings themselves weren’t functioning properly, this can result in an injury and it may be possible to claim against the ski hire shop. If the ski hire was part of a package holiday bought through a tour operator, then it’ll be possible for you to pursue a claim against the tour company. In these cases, it’s important that you preserve the skis, boots and bindings so they can be checked for any faults or incorrect setting.

4. Claims Against Ski Instructors

A high level of skill is required to be able to negotiate difficult and challenging slopes. Anyone being instructed to ski, whether beginners, intermediate or advanced, will need proper tuition and guidance to build up their skiing experience. A ski instructor has a duty to all those under his or her wing to give adequate instruction and to make sure that the slope chosen is appropriate for the skier concerned.

There are too many examples of skiing classes containing skiers of different levels of skill attempting to negotiate the same slope with the inevitable result that the more inexperienced skiers come into difficulty. If you’ve been injured because of this mistake, it may be possible to pursue a claim against your instructor’s employers or the tour operator supplying the package.

5. Avalanches And Piste Management

Winter sporting activities aren’t without their risks and sadly not all of these can be mitigated against when snow, altitude and sports come together. However, local municipalities and piste operators have a duty of care to ensure that their slopes are in good condition to minimise these dangers. As part of their duty to skiers, operators must warn you of potential risks, such as fragile slope conditions, avalanches or dangerous weather conditions. Operators should also make sure that slopes are properly maintained and adequately marked.

A lack of warning against such dangers or poor maintenance can result in devastating consequences for slope users. If you’re injured in these circumstances, you can potentially claim compensation from those in charge of the resort and/or the local municipality.

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