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Bill in Oregon Senate aims to protect ski resorts. Recent Mt. Bachelor waiver ruling prompts legislation

Mt Bachelor logoMT. BACHELOR, Ore. –Oregon ski resorts want more protection from liability lawsuits, and a Senate committee is considering a bill to do just that.

Senate Bill 849 stems from a multimillion-dollar lawsuit involving a paralyzed skier at Mt. Bachelor.It covers risks involved with terrain parks, avalanches and falling into tree wells.

Proponents say the bill is necessary to stop ticket prices from rising dramatically.

“I’ve had a season pass since 1982,” Todd Mcgee, who owns Powder House Ski & Snowboard, said Tuesday.

For many Central Oregonians, skiing is a passion — one with well-known risks.

“It’s a fun sport, but it has some dangers to it,” Mcgee said.

“It’s kind of why we ski. If you do it long enough, you will get hurt,” said Chris Contigan, another Powder House employee.

Lawsuits stemming from injuries have put Mt. Bachelor back in the spotlight.

“We are a safe industry. It is rare to have catastrophic injury on our trails,” said Dave Rathbun, the resort’s president and general manager.

He describes the bill heard by a Senate committee Monday as a way to clearly define the inherent risks of skiing, and protect skiing areas from facing lawsuits for injuries caused by those risks.

“The individuals chose to participate in these things, and they have to know and understand and accept those risks,” Rathbun said.

“Going skiing, it’s inherent risk. Taking your chances, it’s a sport,” Rathbun said.

Contigan said, “It’s by own recourse and cognizance. If I get hurt up there, it’s on me.”

If Senate Bill 849 does not pass, things will change — mainly the cost of ticket prices, the measure’s supporters say. That’s for two reasons: legal fees and liability insurance.

“I’m expecting to see these rates and costs to go up, and that means those costs we pass those along to the customer,” Rathbun said, adding that he expects rates to increase fivefold without the liability protections they have had in the past.

Asked what they would do even if prices double, some skiers said it would make the difference between playing and staying home.

“No, I’d be done,” Contigan said.

Mcgee disagrees: “I’ve probably find a way to make it happen, even if it got more expensive.”

If passed, Senate Bill 849 would actually expand upon a law written in 1979.

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 Samantha O’Connor, March 31, 2015 , KTVZ.com

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