For Immediate Release: Tuesday, February 7, 2012
For More Information, Contact: Jane Garrott, Executive Director, (608) 257-5741

Ski Area Operators Immunity Bill Would Send State Tourism and Skiers Downhill With No Safeguards

MADISON, WI – Two Wisconsin legislative committees will hear testimony today on identical bills that would significantly limit a ski area operator’s responsibility for injuries to skiers, including children of all ages and skills.

Senate Bill 388, the ski area operators immunity bill, will have a public hearing at 10:00 a.m.  before the Wisconsin Senate Judiciary, Utilities, Commerce and Government Operations Committee, while Assembly Bill 495 will be considered at 10:30 a.m. by the Assembly Tourism, Recreation and State Properties Committee.

“These proposals put the responsibility on the skier to know and accept nearly all risks associated with skiing at a commercial ski hill,” said Ed Vopal, president of the Wisconsin Association for Justice (WAJ). 

The bills put the burden on the skier to evaluate and assume potentially unknown risks, such as forest growth, boulders or drop-offs, while using a ski trail.  The bills also allow ski area operators to fulfill only very minimal duties to maintain proper facilities.  For example, the bills also do not require padding for ski hill infrastructure.

“While some commercial ski hills have become more dangerous due to jumps and other challenging features, these bills significantly limit ski area operators’ liability,” Vopal said.

The bills allow ski area operators to require that skiers sign a release of all liability, which is enforceable against the skier.  Wisconsin law does not favor liability releases.  The overall effect of this legislation is to make Wisconsin ski areas less accountable to the public, and therefore more dangerous for children and beginning adult skiers.

“These bills shift accountability for safety of the ski hill to the skier, no matter what age or skill level, rather than the people who own and profit from it,” Vopal said.

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The Wisconsin Association for Justice stands with consumers to promote a fair and effective justice system for every citizen, not just the privileged and wealthy.

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