Smith-Wille v. Ski Shawnee, PICS Case No. 14-0221 (C.P. Monroe Jan. 6, 2014) Williamson, J. (12 pages).

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Premises Liability • Inherent Risk • Downhill Skiing

Smith-Wille v. Ski Shawnee, PICS Case No. 14-0221 (C.P. Monroe Jan. 6, 2014) Williamson, J. (12 pages).

The court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's claim for injuries sustained by her in a downhill skiing accident.

Plaintiff described herself as an intermediate level skier. While skiing on defendants' premises, plaintiff was injured when she skied down the slope in icy conditions and struck a metal pole covered by PVC piping. The pole had been erected to hold a vinyl fence on the ski slope. Plaintiff asserted a premises liability claim, alleging defendants created and knew, or should have known, of the existence of the dangerous condition posed by the metal pole. She also claimed defendants should have provided a warning regarding icy skiing conditions.

Defendants argued plaintiff's accident was the result of the inherent risks of downhill skiing, for which no liability should be imposed on defendants. Plaintiff responded that the lack of a warning regarding the icy conditions left her with no other option than to ski down the slope once she reached the top of the hill and noticed the ice. The court disagreed with plaintiff. As an intermediate skier, the court stated that plaintiff knew or should have known of alternative methods of reaching the bottom of the hill once she became aware of the icy conditions. The court suggested that plaintiff could have chosen to traverse the hill without her skis, taken the lift back down to the bottom of the hill, stopped skiing and waited for the ski patrol to assist her, or traversed sideways down the hill with her skis still on. Because she chose none of these options, plaintiff assumed the inherent risk of downhill skiing.

An inherent risk is one that cannot be removed without altering the nature of the activity. The court concluded that encountering icy conditions while skiing was one of the inherent risks of downhill skiing. Defendant had no duty to warn regarding the ice or the metal pole. The pole was located at the edge of the ski slope and the court found this was notice itself for skiers to stay away from it. Striking a protective fence designating and protecting skiers from the edge of the trail was an inherent risk of skiing, for which defendants had no duty to provide any warning.

The court held there was no genuine issue of material fact because the icy conditions encountered by plaintiff were an inherent risk of skiing for which defendants were not liable. Defendants were entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.