January 2010

Play it safe!

By Frédéric Savard-Scott, Annie-Claude Ménard

On February 5, 2004, a 14-year-old student attended an outdoor activity organized by her high school at a ski centre in the Quebec City area.

This student had been practicing snowboarding for two years. She had given up downhill skiing, which she had practiced for more than nine years, in order to take lessons in snowboarding and learn its techniques.

She was not experienced enough to ride the slopes that were rated difficult. On this particular day, therefore, she chose to go down a slope that was rated intermediate.

While still on the upper part of the slope, the young snowboarder executed short-radius turns. Nearby, an experienced skier (also female) was on the descent, making wider turns at a steady rhythm and speed.

The young snowboarder remembers losing sight of the experienced skier, but has some difficulty recalling the collision that took place then...

Apparently the young snowboarder struck the experienced skier from behind. The skier, who was protected by a helmet, fell and struck the ground hard before her skis came loose.

The skier sued the snowboarder for damages.

The Court of Quebec (Émond v. Gauthier, 2009 QCCQ 5117) ruled in favour of the skier, because the evidence showed that although the snowboarder did not intend to cause the collision, she was going too fast and was too close to the skier, who was ahead of her. It was therefore up to the snowboarder "to adapt her movements and behave in a way that respected the safety of others... (Émond v. Gauthier, 2009 QCCQ 5117, paragraph 55)".

This decision recalls the terms of the Mountain Code of Conduct (also known as the Alpine Code of Conduct), which by law must be posted in all ski centres in Quebec, both at the ticket office and near every ski lift boarding area, according to the Regulation respecting safety in Alpine ski centres (c. S-3.1, r.10) .

1. Remain in control of your speed and direction. Make sure you can stop and avoid any person or obstacle.

2. Yield the right of way to persons downhill and choose a course that ensures their safety.

3. Stop on a trail only if you are visible from above and if you are not obstructing the trail.

4. Yield the right of way to persons uphill when entering a trail and at intersections.

5. If you are involved in or witness an accident, remain at the scene and identify yourself to a first-aider.

6. Use and wear at all times a proper device to prevent runaway equipment.

7. Keep off lifts and trails if your ability is impaired through use of alcohol or drugs.

8. Obey all signs and warnings and never venture off trails or onto a closed trail.

In other words, enjoy the winter and its associated seasonal activities...but play it safe!