In Virginia, there is no statute that prevents skiers from suing the resort if they were injured for negligent actions leading to the injury. There have been a few major cases of skiing injuries in recent years. One, against the Wintergreen Resort, dealt with the traumatic brain injury of a child. In that case, seventeen year old Jessica Grigg sustained permanent brain damage after skiing into a snow-grooming machine on one of the resort’s slopes. The resort argued that Grigg assumed the risk of skiing (a dangerous sport), that she was skiing out of control, and that she’d received warnings about the machines. Nevertheless, a jury found that the ski resort had been negligent and awarded $8.3 million dollars at trial – the largest ski injury award given to a plaintiff in Virginia. The jury’s verdict and award were upheld at the appellate level and the Supreme Court of Virginia. One question raised by Grigg’s case, and others like it, is whether the skier did in fact assume the risk by skiing and exposing themselves to the dangerous aspects of the sport. If a defendant proves that the plaintiff assumed the risk of a dangerous activity in which he or she was participating at the time of his or her injury, the plaintiff may be barred from recovery against the negligent defendant (usually a ski resort).
Typically, the answer in Virginia is that the risks of skiing itself may be something that the skier knew or should have known about. However, artificial conditions that are not inherently part of skiing, and are not hazards voluntarily accepted by the skier or snowboarder. For example, serious injuries can happen during lift operation when skiers are being taken to the top of the slopes, sometimes because of the inexperienced or untrained help operating the lifts. Risks from snowmobiles or ski slope grooming machines run by resort staff such as the one that injured Griggs are also outside of what is normally considered part of the natural expected aspect of the skiing experience.