The operators of Mt. Hood Skibowl in Oregon have decided to suspend bike park operations following a recent verdict against them in an injury lawsuit. The Oregonian reports a jury awarded $11.4M to Gabriel Owens, a rider who was injured after crashing into a sign at the park back in 2016. The legal complaint can be viewed here.
A post on the park’s website says, “In light of a recent unprecedented plaintiff verdict in a mountain biking lawsuit against Mt. Hood Skibowl, we have made the difficult decision to suspend all mountain bike operations for the summer of 2022. After 32 years without a serious mountain bike claim of any kind, the winds have shifted. Our industry has focused heavily on user education and operational best practices, while working hard toward mitigating risk where possible. Eliminating all risks with recreational activities—especially in downhill mountain biking through forests at high speed— is something that is just not possible.”
The post goes on to say that other western states offer better protection for outdoor recreation providers against lawsuits than Oregon currently offers. Colorado law, for example, says skiers assume “the risk of and all legal responsibility for any injury to person or property resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing.” Oregon’s law doesn’t go so far as to label skiing as a dangerous sport, stating only that “an individual who engages in the sport of skiing, alpine or nordic, accepts and assumes the inherent risks of skiing insofar as they are reasonably obvious, expected or necessary.” In both states facility operators are responsible for providing proper signage and a reasonably safe environment.
The Mt. Hood Skibowl statement seems to leave open the possibility of re-opening the bike park at some point in the future. “Given the current legal landscape in Oregon, the future of Mountain Biking at Mt. Hood Skibowl remains uncertain while we work through the judicial process with hopes to find more effective ways of protection for offering these popular—albeit inherently risky—recreational activities.”
It’s unclear whether other bike parks in the state will modify their operations as a result of this verdict.