It might be bright and sunny outside, but ski season is just a few months away.
Mt. Bachelor announced its taking a new approach to season passes this year in an effort to avoid lawsuits.
This year, Mt. Bachelor season passes will have two pricing options with varied protection offered to guests. Those willing to sign a liability waiver will get a cheaper option, while those who want to skip the signature will have to pay extra, up to $250 for an adult season pass.
The options will be present for all activities including a ‘normal amount of risk’, including mountain biking.
“We’ve tried to strike the balance between making it a reasonable choice between these two options, and a meaningful price difference,” said John McLeod, Mt. Bachelor’s President and General Manager on Monday.
“For those people who do choose the lower price product and do choose to sign a release of liability, the situation would be just as it is in many other states, where it governs the terms of our relationship with those customers,” McLeod added. “For our guests who choose not to sign our release of liability, it all just falls down to the law of the land.”
He said the decision comes amid Oregon’s current legal landscape.
In an email to season pass holders a couple of weeks ago, McLeod explained that Oregon does not allow the same protections as other western states when it comes for outdoor recreation facilities.
“In 13 out of 14 Western states, liability releases are legally enforceable helping outdoor recreation providers in those states address dangers that are inherent to recreating outdoors,” his email read. “Unfortunately, outdoor recreation providers in Oregon do not have this type of legal protection and are being challenged by rapidly increasing insurance premiums and legal costs.”
Central Oregon Daily News spoke with folks at ski supply shops in Bend about how they felt about the change.
Powder House Ski Shop’s owner, Todd McGee, said he would personally opt for the cheaper option and sign the waiver.
“It’s kind of where we’re at right now with the liability, and we’re doing a very risky sport with going downhill at high speeds, and being on snow or dirt on bikes, so it’s just something Bachelor needs to do and they didn’t have an option,” he said.
Other skiers who did not want to appear on camera said they believed the move was a way for the mountain to avoid taking responsibility for accidents.
The price change comes as Mt. Bachelor faces a nearly $50 million lawsuit in the death of 9-year-old Brecken Boice, who suffered fatal injuries on an icy slope in January 2021.
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McLeod said the change was not a result of any single case.
“As you’ve seen, obvious compared to a lot of other states, the increase in size and frequency of lawsuits is a contributing factor,” McLeod said.
Regardless of feelings surrounding the decision, both the mountain and ski shop reported a similar trend.
“Everyone I’ve talked to has said they’re signing the waiver and doing the cheaper price,” McGee said.
“The overwhelming majority of our guests are selecting to pay the lower price,” McLeod added. “Because they understand the concept of personal responsibility and inherent risk. So that’s the main point of feedback that we’re getting right now, everybody’s taking the lower product.”
McLeod said Mt. Bachelor would soon be embarking on an effort to introduce legislation that gives Oregon outdoor recreation providers the same protection as in other states like California and Washington.
You can read McLeod’s full statement to season pass holders below:
Season Pass Pricing
Mt. Bachelor has implemented a new pricing approach for season pass products, which will be followed by a similar change in pricing for many of our ticket products for the upcoming winter season. In simple terms there will now be two prices for these lift access products, a lower priced option that, similar to year’s past, requires you to sign our standard release of liability and a new higher priced option that does not require you to sign a release of liability.
This change is a result of the current legal landscape in Oregon. In recent years large lawsuits against outdoor recreation providers in Oregon, including many related to the inherent risks of skiing, snowboarding, and mountain biking, have started to significantly threaten the outdoor recreation industry.
Oregon is a state that prides itself on its abundance of outdoor recreation, from hiking, fishing and climbing, to surfing, mountain biking and of course, skiing and snowboarding. There are many people and businesses that support the outdoor lifestyle we cherish and provide employment in the outdoor recreation sector. In 13 out of 14 Western states, liability releases are legally enforceable helping outdoor recreation providers in those states address dangers that are inherent to recreating outdoors. Unfortunately, outdoor recreation providers in Oregon do not have this type of legal protection and are being challenged by rapidly increasing insurance premiums and legal costs. We have already begun to see this impact in the closure of downhill mountain biking at Ski Bowl and there will be more impacts like this until the legal landscape changes. We hope you will begin to hear more about this issue as the outdoor recreation industry engages in an effort to restore legal protections for outdoor recreation providers in Oregon and place us on an equal footing with our nearest neighbors and most other states in the nation.
In the meantime, we hope that by providing you with additional choices in your season pass and ticket purchase process, you can make your own decisions about how you wish to deal with the risks of participation in our sport.