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Idaho House passes bill limiting ski area operators’ liability

BOISE – Idaho lawmakers want ski area operators to be immune from claims over accidents related to in-bounds avalanches or faulty jumps, hits or rails in terrain parks.

House Bill 462 passed on a 61-8 vote Tuesday after much debate.

Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, said the bill would update a ski area liability statute that hasn’t been updated since 1979, adding snowboarders, terrain parks and the like. But opponents said the measure would sharply limit ski areas’ liability for skiers’ and snowboarders’ accidents.

“There are no guarantees when it comes to the sport of skiing,” Malek told the House. The bill, he said, “provides more clarity.”

Opponents said the measure would absolve ski area operators of any liability for terrain park items like rails or jumps that are incorrectly constructed and collapse.

“I don’t agree with that,” said Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, an attorney. “There should be an incentive for them to be constructed safely. And when liability immunity is granted to the ski area operator there is no incentive.”

Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, also an attorney, said, “This goes way too far and it exposes our citizens … to risk.”

Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, spoke in favor of the bill, saying, “Let’s let some things happen and not keep trying to take care of everyone.”

The bill now moves to a Senate committee.

Among North Idaho House members, those voting against the bill were Reps. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, and Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow.

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