More than 200 people were trapped in Sugarloaf Ski Resort in Carrabassatt, Maine on a ski chairlift Monday morning. The injuries were a result of a ski lift derailment, causing injury to several Sugarloaf skiers. The lift derailment caused five lift chairs to fall some 30 feet to the slope below, the Associated Press reports.
Sugarloaf Mountain is in Carrabassett Valley, about 120 miles north of Portland, Maine. According to the resort, six people were injured when the chairlifts fell. The ski lift derailment injuries do not appear to be life-threatening.
Skier Rebecca London told the AP that she was spared a worse fate because the snow beneath her was fresh and allowed for a soft landing. She hit her face on the retaining bar of the chairlift, but her goggles protected her from serious injury.
The National Weather Service does not have sensors in Sugarloaf, but a sensor in nearby Gray recorded winds of 40 mph, suggesting the malfunction may have been wind related. The chairlift was licensed and passed a recent inspection, said Doug Dunbar of Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.
Generally speaking, if a skier can prove that the operator was negligent in maintaining its ski lift, then the skier may be able to recover against the ski resort. However, that varies greatly by states. Some states say skiers operate under an "assumption of risk" legal concept. In such states, the skier generally assumes the risk of injury and cannot recover for most skiing-related injuries. Of course, there are exceptions but they are more narrow than in other states.
According to skilaw.com, Maine is one of eight states that operate ski resorts under the legal requirement of "ordinary care." That means that Maine does not follow the strict adaptation of the primary assumption of risk rule. Thus skiers and ski area operators must exercise reasonable care or they can be sued for negligence.
The frightening incident in Maine will certainly be one to keep an eye on. Expect lawsuits to be forthcoming against Sugarloaf before we even ring in the New Year.