Florida residents who enjoy winter sports are likely familiar with ski lifts. Accidents involving these ski resort conveyances are quite rare, but they are often deadly when they do occur. Four skiers were killed when a ski lift in Colorado malfunctioned in 1976, and a similar accident in California in 1978 also claimed four lives. Ski lift machinery is fairly straightforward, but some safety experts are concerned about aging equipment and inconsistent regulatory oversight in many of the nation’s most popular skiing destinations.
Most of the nation’s ski lifts were installed in the 1970s and 1980s, and they are now coming to the end of their intended service lives. Replacing an older ski lift with modern equipment can cost winter resorts $3 million or more, and meeting these costs can be a real challenge in a fiercely competitive market. According to an Associated Press survey, the average ski lift in Maine is 22 years old. The figure was based on a report from the state’s Board of Elevator and Tramway Safety.
Safety advocates are also concerned about a patchwork of ski resort regulations. While road safety in the United States is regulated at the federal level by agencies like NHTSA, oversight of the nation’s ski resorts is left to the states. There are no nationally accepted safety standards, and state rather than federal lawmakers set inspection schedules and determine how violators should be punished.
When individuals suffer injuries due to equipment malfunctions or failures, personal injury attorneys with premises liability experience may study maintenance and inspection logs for signs of negligence. Ski resort owners and operators are expected to address known safety issues and protect their visitors from foreseeable harm, and they could face civil sanctions when their failure to meet this duty results in injury, loss or damage.