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Canadian ski school liable in $2,705,166 lawsuit - Page 4

post #91 of 104

I am sure it may already been stated in the thread somewhere... Or I hope it was... Nonetheless, the supervisor should never have sent a rookie instructor of any age out with that many students of any age without help or supervision.  The instructor did make a stupid decision.  However, the supervisor was the first line of fault.

post #92 of 104

Sorry, should have cut it off sooner.  I edited my posts to remove the OT content.

post #93 of 104

can someone clarify a point for me. If it was an adult where both of you mutally agreed to separate/finish lesson at the top of a ridge or somewhere not near the base, and they went off and skied and injured themselves, I could be in trouble? Of course I wouldn't leave an intermediate stuck on an expert run, and I'd ask them if they were ok to find their way back.

Surely there is no law that could get me in trouble if two consenting adults make an informed decision.

Surely common sense would prevail in this case.

Does anyone know of a case where an adult finished the lesson in a place he felt comfortable, then two minutes out of lesson injures himself, then successfully sues the ski school?

post #94 of 104


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by skiingaround View Post

can someone clarify a point for me. If it was an adult where both of you mutally agreed to separate/finish lesson at the top of a ridge or somewhere not near the base, and they went off and skied and injured themselves, I could be in trouble? Of course I wouldn't leave an intermediate stuck on an expert run, and I'd ask them if they were ok to find their way back.

Surely there is no law that could get me in trouble if two consenting adults make an informed decision.

Surely common sense would prevail in this case.

Does anyone know of a case where an adult finished the lesson in a place he felt comfortable, then two minutes out of lesson injures himself, then successfully sues the ski school?

 

IANAL, but I've never heard of a case like this.

 

My feeling is that an adult could be released as long as they were in a safe place and, like you said, it was an informed decision.  To me, this would mean not leaving someone on terrain over their head, or at a point where the only ways down are terrain over their head, or somewhere that they're lost and don't know where to go to get back safely.  I would need to be very sure that they could get back to the bottom safely.

 

They also need to be okay with you leaving them.  If they say "you know, I'd rather have you lead me back to the ski school..." and you say "ah, you'll be fine, you've skied down from here before" and ski off, and then something happens to them... that's bad.  What if they were actually sick, or dehydrated, or hypothermic, or suffering from altitude sickness?

 

Where I work (which is not very big, and all runs go back to the same base area), we had orientation last week and were explicitly reminded not to end a lesson except at the bottom of the hill.  Kids have to be brought back to the ski school unless we made other arrangements with the parents beforehand.

post #95 of 104
Quote:
Originally Posted by skiingaround View Post

can someone clarify a point for me. If it was an adult where both of you mutally agreed to separate/finish lesson at the top of a ridge or somewhere not near the base, and they went off and skied and injured themselves, I could be in trouble? Of course I wouldn't leave an intermediate stuck on an expert run, and I'd ask them if they were ok to find their way back.

Surely there is no law that could get me in trouble if two consenting adults make an informed decision.

Surely common sense would prevail in this case.

Does anyone know of a case where an adult finished the lesson in a place he felt comfortable, then two minutes out of lesson injures himself, then successfully sues the ski school?


Duty of care and standard of care go together.  Concluding your duty of care through mutual agreement is a good start.  Standard of care raises the bar for you as a trained professional.  You are expected to reach this mutual agreement after using your professional judgement and  reasonable efforts to communicate relevant risks.  Finally, you have to use your professional judgement to confirm that the other adult understands the risks and can in fact make a properly informed decision.

 

None of this makes you immune to a lawsuit, but it helps establish a good defence.
 

post #96 of 104

For someone in Switzerland, I would've thought they'd realize they really need to look to Swiss law for that.  That's what I'd do, assuming I were in Switzerland.  As regards people thinking that whether instructors can think for themselves, or not, or are even hired in part for that quality or the express lack of that quality, really would make a difference, look at the characteristics of TSA screeners and imagine how they'd be as ski instructors.  Overall, and worse if they were in a situation (which will often arise on a ski hill) that actually does call for judgment.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

post #97 of 104

In all honesty, here in switzerland and USA, when working with adults, I've never even thought about the legal implications of leaving an adult after a lesson. I think it comes down to common sense. My background of being responsible for others helps in this area. As a nurse who's worked in some really intense areas, you tend to automatically play it on the safe side and things that may seem the natural thing to do might not be so natural to others.

post #98 of 104

While I certainly feel badly for the child, and think the instructor definitely showed poor judgement, I'm not sure about the case. Perhaps the child would have skied differently if the instructor was still at the front of the group. Perhaps not. Bottom line is that skiing is an inherently dangerous sport, and there is a good chance the child still would have skied into the tree, even if following the instructor. The courts seem to fixated on the fact that the instructor wasn't with the group at the time. While I agree the instructor should have been there, what could they have done as they saw the child ski off the run? There is no way they could have grabbed them in time, even if they were with in a few metres at the time. In my opinion, this is one of those unfortunate possibilities that can happen when you strap skis to your feet. While unfortunate, the bottom line is that the child skied into the trees. Ultimately, the situation was totally in the skiers control.

post #99 of 104

I thought I had replied to this but I'm new to this forum and it doesn't show up so sorry if this duplicates what I wrote before.

 

I have lived in ski resorts for eight seasons in the US and Australia. During that time I have seen hundreds of near miss incidents where an instructor is dealing with a large group of children who often have their own plans. Many of these could have ended in tragedy except for good luck. It is the main reason that I chose not to instruct.

 

I have seen even worse situations where parents, often inexperienced themselves, are trying to 'teach' their children.

 

No one will really know what happened that day unless they were there. I feel for the child and the family but I also feel for the instructor. Nine is considered an acceptable number for a class but the only way to make it truly safer is to have two instructors. The problem with that is that many parents would not want to pay the extra money to cover the second one.

 

Although the instructor possibly made a judgment error in this case it sounds like it was a situation that would have happened regardless. As others here have mentioned, skiing is a dangerous sport and if someone gets out of control there is no way you can stop them.

post #100 of 104

Hi,

I read your comment and totally agree, but also the ski school should never have send her out with so many children.

I just would like some opinion from other ski instructors concerning an issue I had at our ski school. This is the first year I have been working at one of the ski clubs in  Ontario.I have been working with beginner school groups who come for 4 times to our hill. They have a session first with an instructor and then ski on their own without any supervision for an other hour or 2.

After the session we are supposed to give them a stripe if they can ski down a beginner hill with controlled turns and speed. If they are not able to do this they have to stay on the same hill they have been skiing on. The student with a stripe is allowed to use the next difficult hill without any supervision. There are some adult volunteers coming with the groups, but they just seem to ski for themselves. The slope the students can now ski on is blue and has a lot steeper pitch at the beginning than what they skied previously with the instructor.There are some children who get scared when they stand on top of this hill and are looking down. Since they are left alone they have to figure out how to get down by themselves.

Testing their ability to ski on an easy run and then assume that they will be ok on the next more difficult run did not make too much sense to me. As I questioned my supervisor about this I got the answer that he also learned skiing this way. He also let me know that he does not like to be questioned. 

I just would like to know how this works in other ski school who teach school groups. After reading about this law suit I thought what we do is even worse. The students are older than the children in the lawsuit, but we are sending them to a more difficult hill they have not been on before. And the big difference is also that they are also not in our duty of care, but nevertheless they are on a more difficult hill because an instructor thought they could handle it without checking that his/her assumption was correct.

If some one with legal back ground would comment on this. What would happen if a child would get hurt after the session on this more difficult hill. Could it be argued that the instructor made the wrong assumption and can be sued although the student was not in the duty of his/her care. Can the Ski Club be sued because they have this policy in place.

 

It would be great if I could get some comments on this matter. As instructors we are supposed to act as " prudent parent " I thing no prudent parent would send their kid to a steeper hill he has not previously skied before by himself.

 

 

 

 

 

post #101 of 104
Quote:
Originally Posted by davluri View Post

I'm glad to hear the plaintiff won, or will be heard further. hire idiots, pay the price. I see it a lot at Squaw, instructors with the brain of a flea, sick and tired of it. destroy that school and maybe directors will think twice about who they hire. dumb, dumb, dumb. she had a phone or radio right! What I see a lot is a class of 5 yr olds in the singles line. how many things are wrong with that. woman instructor about 19 idiot years  old. I told her a few things that were wrong with that, but she just decided that I was un-cool.


 

This was a rookie instructor sent out on her first day with way too many kids, doing what she thought was the right thing, and what very well might have been the right thing, despite the bad outcome.  For you to use words like "idiot" and "brain of a flea" is totally inappropriate, mean-spirited, and cruel.  I am sure that the instructor will never get over this. My son taught small kids at Sugar Bowl before he became a pro patroller at Squaw.  He says teaching the kids was much harder than patrol, and he was good at it. It's a hard, underpaid job. Have some compassion.

post #102 of 104

Uh, guys, you're replying to a year and a half year old thread...

 

Might be interesting to update with any new examples/cases folks know of. Sounds as if in the PSIA new instructors are expected to learn to teach on new/beginning/young students. Seniority rules? If true, IMO, all backwards. Teaching a beginner requires a lot more teaching - as opposed to skiing - ability than teaching an expert. And keeping a little kid focused, happy, and safe is infinitely tougher than working with an adult. Just sayin'...

post #103 of 104

Hopefully this doesn't veer horribly off-course again.  It might be better to create new threads to discuss these topics.
 

Quote:

Originally Posted by sandy View Post
I just would like some opinion from other ski instructors concerning an issue I had at our ski school...

 

[cut wall of text -- summary: instructors clear kids in a school program to leave the green trails, and after that they're allowed to ski on a blue trail with no supervision.  Poster noted that some kids were terrified the first time on this trail and wondered about the sense of this policy.  SSM was apparently dismissive of concerns.]

 

...

 

If some one with legal back ground would comment on this. What would happen if a child would get hurt after the session on this more difficult hill. Could it be argued that the instructor made the wrong assumption and can be sued although the student was not in the duty of his/her care. Can the Ski Club be sued because they have this policy in place.

 

It would be great if I could get some comments on this matter. As instructors we are supposed to act as " prudent parent " I thing no prudent parent would send their kid to a steeper hill he has not previously skied before by himself.

 

 

Disclaimer: IANAL.  Presumably you're not dragging them yourselves to the top of the more difficult hill and pushing them down if they don't want to go.  Once the lesson is over, shouldn't the parents or chaperones decide whether the kids are ready to continue skiing themselves or if they need supervision?  Otherwise I'm not sure where you would argue the duty of care of the instructor ends.  After one run?  Five?  Ten?  Maybe it would depend on the agreement between the organizers of the group and the ski area?

 

In our group programs, there is no 'certification' or supervision by the ski school outside of the kids' scheduled weekly lessons.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by beyond View Post
...Sounds as if in the PSIA new instructors are expected to learn to teach on new/beginning/young students. Seniority rules?

 

There's some of that, but it's also a numbers game.  There are a lot more beginners taking lessons than experts.  Another problem is that most new instructors simply couldn't teach an expert skier.  They don't have good enough technical skills.  So either they start out teaching beginners, or else you'd have to have them spend months shadowing someone else before they did anything on their own -- and unless they were already VERY sharp technically, they still probably wouldn't be able to teach anything but beginners for a while.

 

Given turnover rates of first-year instructors, I doubt many resorts would go for that, even if it might produce better instructors in the long term.

 

Quote:
If true, IMO, all backwards. Teaching a beginner requires a lot more teaching - as opposed to skiing - ability than teaching an expert.

 

It does require teaching skill, but I don't know that I would say it requires "more teaching ability".  There's less material to cover, so you can get new instructors up to speed faster.  It's hard to teach either beginners or more experienced skiers really well.

 

On a practical basis, I follow the same overall 'lesson plan' for all my never-ever lessons, with adjustments based on how the students are doing.  With more advanced students first I have to figure out where they are technically, then try to tailor something to them.  I could probably teach a solid intermediate skier how to demo and teach basic wedge turns in an hour; trying to teach them how to do MA on intermediate or advanced skiers would take a lot longer than that.

 

Quote:
And keeping a little kid focused, happy, and safe is infinitely tougher than working with an adult. Just sayin'...

 

I dunno.  I've seen some cranky adults out there.  Little kids need more attention and patience (generally), and beginner lessons with them are physically tougher, since you have to chase them, drag them up the hill, pick them up off the ground all the time, etc.  It's a different set of challenges working with adults.

 

I will say that the difference between 1-2 kids and a whole pack of them is much bigger than the difference between 1-2 adults and a larger group.

post #104 of 104
Great post, Matt. For many reasons--some perhaps within their control, some not--most ski schools have little choice but to use less-experienced instructors to teach beginners. As you've pointed out, the technical side of teaching beginners is much, much simpler than for intermediates and above. Class handling, too, is generally simpler, as the environment for beginners is more limited and less variable--often to the point of being a small, fenced-in learners' hill. Ski schools can quite easily train new instructors with no more than intermediate skiing skills themselves to deliver a basic, generally successful beginner technical progression that requires very little understanding or decision-making. They can "teach" this tried-and-true progression by rote, the same way each time, in the same place, on the same timetable, same terrain, and so on. No, it certainly will not be as good a lesson as one orchestrated by a highly experienced instructor creatively tailoring the experience for each individual student, but it can get most beginners--both students and instructors--off to a reasonably successful start.

It is worth noting that PSIA has nothing to do with ski school policies, and certainly does not require or even recommend that ski schools use beginning instructors to teach beginners. These are decisions that individual ski schools and resorts make--often out of necessity, given the realities of the teaching profession and the economics of the industry. As Matthias points out, while it may not be ideal to use beginning instructors to teach beginning skiers, it is simply untenable to use those same beginning instructors to teach upper-level lessons. In a perfect world, there would be only highly qualified, experienced instructors teaching all lessons, at any level. But that is not the reality. Until the profession returns to a state where serious, talented pros can make a real living and career out of it, we will always have some inexperienced, poorly trained, and often poorly motivated instructors teaching beginners--and other levels as well.

---

I'd forgotten about this thread, and I'm glad to see it brought back up. There is a lot of speculation and arm-chair judging going on, since few of us (if any) are aware of all the facts. Contrary to popular opinion here, I cannot categorically say that the instructor made a bad judgment call by letting her class ski to the bottom "unsupervised." We simply don't have enough information. How close to the bottom of the run would you have to be to make a reasonable call? Presumably, it was a run that the students were familiar with, and had successfully skied before. What if you were just fifty feet from the bottom, and in plain sight? A hundred feet? A hundred yards? "Just around the bend"? Where is the line between acceptable and "bad judgment"? Would the instructor skiing down first have prevented the student from "going rogue" and having the accident? Many, many questions....

But one thing is clear, according to the reports: the instructor was not very experienced. That alone makes her judgment easy to question, and her (and the resort that employs her) an easy target. I cannot categorically say (without more information) that a highly experienced instructor would not have made the same decision. But it seems to me that putting inexperienced, uncertified instructors in front of classes puts resorts at greater risk in itself, even if they actually make good decisions. Whether this instructor actually made a bad decision in this case or not, her inexperience automatically makes her decisions suspect.

Experience and training generally do lead to better judgment (not to mention better lessons). Perhaps it is something the industry's accountants can measure--the cost of hiring and retaining more high-level and experienced instructors, vs. the cost of bad judgment calls by inexperienced instructors that result in expensive lawsuits, higher workers' compensation costs from instructor injuries, and just generally lower customer satisfaction. But that does not seem to be the trend....

Best regards,
Bob
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