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Snowtubing and the Law: Who’s Responsible If You Get Hurt?

Last winter, we blogged about the Pennsylvania Skier’s Responsibility Act, which relieves ski resorts of any legal duty to protect skiers from inherent risks of the sport. But with many of Pennsylvania’s winter resorts also offering snowtubing ― which requires nothing more than sitting in a tube without skill, training, or practice ― what happens if you get hurt during this family-friendly alternative to skiing? Does the act protect a resort from legal liability? The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently said “no.”

First Time Snowtubing

In Amadeo v. Spring Mountain Adventures, a woman who had never gone snowtubing before went snowtubing at the defendant’s facility. During her first attempt down the hill at the end of the run, she encountered an implacable and immovable barrier, put in place by the resort. Upon contact, she sustained a significant injury to her ankle. The woman sued the resort, and the resort subsequently sought to have her case dismissed under the Pennsylvania Skier’s Responsibility Act.

Family Activity

As previously discussed, the Pennsylvania Skier’s Responsibility Act relieves ski resorts of any legal duty to protect skiers from inherent risks of the sport. The act does not define “inherent risk,” but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that inherent risks include snow and ice, elevation, contour, speed, weather conditions, and falling from a ski lift.

Here, the defendant argued that because snowtubing carries with it an inherent risk of harm, the resort was protected from legal liability for its customer’s injuries.

The District Court disagreed, finding that “a survey of the law reveals the Skier’s Responsibility Act, and Pennsylvania law, has identified ‘inherent risks in the sport of downhill skiing’ but has not yet applied the same standard to snowtubing.”

As the court put it:

Snowtubing is an inherently family activity, during which families expect to be able to enjoy an injury-free experience, all things being equal, while others are engaged in the activity of skiing, which activity carries with it an inherent risk of harm. Snowtubing clearly does not fall within the auspices of the Skier’s Responsibility Act.

Conclusion

The injured snowtuber will be allowed to proceed with her lawsuit against the resort. As always, if you have been injured while enjoying activities at a snow park, waterpark, or other recreational resort or facility, we recommend consulting with a personal injury attorney immediately to ensure that your legal rights are protected.