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Legal Liability for Snowboarders

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on January 29, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When video of snowboarder Christian Mares surviving a self-created avalanche came out last week, we thought, "Cool." When it turned out he could face criminal charges for snowboarding in a restricted area of Tahoe's Sugar Bowl Resort, we thought, "Less cool."

It also got us thinking about all the different legal liabilities snowboarders could face out on the mountain. Here are just a few of them:


That's what the Placer County Sheriff's Department may charge Mares with. Under California Penal Code 602, "Knowingly skiing in an area or on a ski trail that is closed to the public and that has signs posted indicating the closure" constitutes misdemeanor trespassing. So Mares, and other trespassing snowboarders, could face six months in jail and $1,000 in fines.

Injury Liability

Most snowboarders are careful on the mountain, and are cognizant of and courteous to other snowboarders and skiers. But snowboarders involved in injury collisions could be on the hook for injuries to both themselves and others.

A snowboarder acting recklessly could be sued for negligence if he or she injuries someone else on the slopes. A snowboarder might also forfeit injury claims against a ski resort if he or she is injured while snowboarding off-trail. Additionally, many ski resorts require season pass buyers to sign injury liability waivers that could bar even past injury claims.

Rescue Costs

Many states and national parks have instituted statutes that charges lost or injured people for their rescue, if the rescue is necessary because of the person's dangerous or illegal act. For instance, California recently passed a bill that allows cities and counties to:

" reimbursement for the actual costs incurred from that resident, if the need for the search or rescue necessitated the use of extraordinary methods and was caused by an intentional act in knowing violation of any federal or state law or local ordinance that resulted in a criminal conviction of that person for that act."

The statute caps the costs at $12,000. And in national parks, the Park Service can recover rescue costs if the person needing rescue violated a park rule.

Moose Chasing

Yeah, don't chase wildlife on your snowboard.

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