New Hampshire Skiers, Ski Area and Passenger Tramway Safety ActPosted: July 22, 2013
New Hampshire Skiers, Ski Area and Passenger Tramway Safety Act
NEW HAMPSHIRE REVISED STATUTES ANNOTATED
TITLE XIX Public Recreation
CHAPTER 225-A Skiers, Ski Area and Passenger Tramway Safety
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The state of New Hampshire finds that the sports of skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and snowshoeing are practiced by a large number of citizens of the state of New Hampshire, and also that skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and snowshoeing attract to the state of New Hampshire large numbers of nonresidents significantly contributing to the economy of New Hampshire. Therefore, it shall be the policy of the state of New Hampshire to protect its citizens and visitors from unnecessary mechanical hazards in the operation of ski tows, lifts, nordic ski jumps and passenger tramways, to ensure that proper design and construction are used, that board accepted safety devices and sufficient personnel are provided for, and that periodic inspections and adjustments are made which are deemed essential to the safe operation of ski tows, ski lifts, nordic ski jumps and passenger tramways. The primary responsibility for operation, construction, maintenance and inspection rests with the operators of such passenger tramway devices. The state, through its passenger tramway safety board, as hereinafter provided, shall register all ski lift devices and nordic ski jumps, establish reasonable standards of design and operational practices, and make such independent inspections as may be necessary in carrying out this policy. Further, it shall be the policy of the state of New Hampshire to define the primary areas of responsibility of skiers and other users of alpine (downhill) and nordic (cross country and nordic ski jumps) areas, recognizing that the sport of skiing and other ski area activities involve risks and hazards which must be assumed as a matter of law by those engaging in such activities, regardless of all safety measures taken by the ski area operators.
The passenger tramway safety board shall be an administratively attached agency, under RSA 21-G:10, to the department of safety.
In this chapter:
“Board” means the passenger tramway safety board.
“Department” means the department of safety.
“Industry” means the activities of all those persons in the state who own or control the operation of ski areas.
“Nordic ski jump” means a facility constructed for the purpose of nordic ski jumping and built in accordance with appropriate standards and guidelines, and any facilities that are associated with the use or viewing of such a facility.
“Passenger” means any person, including skiers, while being transported or conveyed by a passenger tramway, or while waiting in the immediate vicinity for such transportation or conveyance, or while moving away from the disembarkation or unloading point of a passenger tramway to clear the way for the following passengers, or while in the act of boarding or embarking upon or disembarking from a passenger tramway.
“Passenger tramway” means a device used to transport passengers uphill on skis or other winter sports devices, or in cars on tracks or suspended in the air, by the use of steel cables, chains or belts or by ropes, and usually supported by trestles or towers with one or more spans. The term passenger tramway shall include the following:
Two-car aerial passenger tramway, a device used to transport passengers in 2 open or enclosed cars attached to, and suspended from, a moving wire rope, or attached to a moving wire rope and supported on a standing wire rope, or similar devices.
Multi-car aerial passenger tramway, a device used to transport passengers in open or enclosed cars attached to, and suspended from, a moving wire rope, or attached to a moving wire rope and supported on a standing wire rope, or similar devices.
“Conveyor” means a class of outdoor transportation wherein skiers or passengers are transported uphill on a flexible moving element such as a conveyor belt.
Chair lift, a type of transportation on which passengers are carried on chairs suspended in the air and attached to a moving cable, chain or link belt supported by trestles or towers with one or more spans, or similar devices.
J bar, T bar or platter pull, so-called, and similar types of devices are means of transportation which pull skiers riding on skis by means of an attachment to a main overhead cable supported by trestles or towers with one or more spans.
Rope tow, a type of transportation which pulls the skier riding on skis as the skier grasps the rope manually, or similar devices.
Wire rope tow means a type of transportation by which skiers are pulled on skis while manually gripping a handle attached to a wire hauling cable. The hauling cable is maintained at a constant height range between the loading and unloading points, and there is only one span with no intermediate towers.
“Ski area operator” means a person who owns or controls the operation of a ski area. The word “operator” shall include the state or any political subdivision. An operator of a passenger tramway shall be deemed not to be operating a common carrier. Ski area operator is included in the term “operator” as used in this chapter.
“Ski areas” means all passenger tramways and all designated alpine and nordic trails, slopes, freestyle terrain, tubing terrain, and nordic ski jumps under the control of the alpine and nordic ski area operator and any other areas under the operator’s control open to the public for winter sports recreation or competition.
“Skier” means a person utilizing the ski area under the control of a ski area operator for ski, snowboard, and snow tube recreation and competition.
“Tubing terrain” means areas designated for sliding on inflatable tubes or other similar devices down a prepared course or lanes at a ski area.
“Winter sports” means the use of skis, snowboards, snow tubes, snowshoes, and any device being utilized by a disabled or adaptive participant for winter recreation or competition.
[Repealed 1987, 124:26, IV, eff. July 1, 1987.]
There shall be a passenger tramway safety board of 4 appointive members. The appointive members shall be appointed by the governor, with the advice and consent of the council, from persons representing the following interests: one member who operates a “surface lift” as described in RSA 225-A:2, I(e)-(g) only and one member from the cable and other passenger carrying devices industry, and in making such appointments consideration shall be given to recommendations made by members of the industry, so that both the devices which pull skiers riding on skis and the devices which transport passengers in cars or chairs shall have proper representation; one member to represent the public at large; and one member to represent insurance companies which engage in insuring passenger tramway operations, and in appointing such member consideration shall be given to recommendations made by such insurance companies. The authority of such board shall not extend to any other matter relative to the operation of a ski area.
[Repealed 1987, 124:26, IV, eff. July 1, 1987.]
Of the first appointments under this section one member shall be appointed for a term of one year, one for a term of 2 years, one for a term of 3 years and one for a term of 4 years, and until their successors are appointed and qualified, and thereafter each of the appointed members shall be appointed for a term of 4 years and until his successor is appointed and qualified. Vacancies in the board shall be filled for the unexpired term.
[Repealed 1987, 124:26, IV, eff. July 1, 1987.]
The appointive members of the board may only be removed from office as provided in RSA 4:1.
[Repealed 1987, 124:26, IV, eff. July 1, 1987.]
The appointive members of the board shall serve without compensation, but shall be reimbursed for their reasonable expenses incurred in official duties.
[Repealed 1987, 124:26, IV, eff. July 1, 1987.]
The department shall provide the board with such office and clerical assistance as may be necessary to carry on the work of the board, in accordance with RSA 225-A:1-a. The department shall also preserve the records, codes, inspection reports, and business records of the board.
The board with the approval of the commissioner of safety shall adopt, under RSA 541-A, rules after public hearing, relating to public safety in the construction, operation and maintenance of passenger tramways. The rules shall be in accordance with established standards, if any, and shall not be discriminatory in their application to operators of passenger tramways. The board shall also give notice of any public hearing under RSA 541-A for such rules by first class mail to each registered operator at least 14 days before the hearing.
[Repealed 1987, 124:26, IV, eff. July 1, 1987.]
The validity or reasonableness of any rule adopted by the board may be judicially determined upon a petition to the superior court for declaratory judgment, brought within 30 days after the effective date of such rule. The court shall hear the petition and render a declaratory judgment only when it appears that the rule, or its threatened application, interferes with or impairs or threatens to interfere with or impair the legal rights and privileges of the petitioner. In rendering judgment the court shall give effect to any pertinent constitutional limitations upon the powers of the board, the limits of the authority and jurisdiction of the board as conferred under this chapter, and the procedural requirements of this chapter.
The department may make such inspection of the construction, operation and maintenance of passenger tramways as the board may reasonably require. The department may, at its own expense, employ other qualified engineers to make such inspections.
Prior to the construction of a new, or the alteration of an existing, passenger tramway, the operator or prospective operator shall submit plans and specifications to the department. The department may make recommendations relative to safety of the layout and equipment, but such recommendation shall not relieve the operator or prospective operator of his primary responsibility as set forth in RSA 225-A:1.
[Repealed 1973, 52:5, eff. May 23, 1973.]
If, as the result of an inspection, it is found that a violation of the board’s rules, regulations or code exists, or a condition in passenger tramway construction, operation or maintenance exists endangering the safety of the public, an immediate report shall be made to the board for appropriate investigation and order.
Any person may make written complaint to the board setting forth any thing or act claimed to be done or omitted to be done by any registered operator which is alleged to be in violation of any rule, regulation or code adopted by the board, or setting forth any condition in passenger tramway construction, operation or maintenance which is alleged to endanger the safety of the public. Thereupon the board shall cause a copy of said complaint to be forwarded to the registered operator complained of, which may be accompanied by an order requiring that the matters complained of be answered in writing within a time to be specified by the board. The board may investigate the matter complained of if it shall appear to the board that there are reasonable grounds therefor.
No passenger tramway shall be operated in this state unless the operator thereof was registered by the board.
On or before November 1 of each year every operator of a passenger tramway shall apply to the board, on forms prepared by it, for registration hereunder. The application shall contain such information as the board may reasonably require.
The application for registration shall be accompanied by the applicable annual fees to cover the costs of administering this chapter. The fees for registration shall be set by the board by rule adopted pursuant to RSA 541-A.
The board, if satisfied with the facts stated in the application, shall issue a registration certificate to the operator. Each registration shall expire on October 31 next following the day of its issue.
All fees collected by the board hereunder shall be credited to the special appropriation for the department to be expended for purposes of this chapter.
When facts are presented to the board, or to any member thereof, tending to show that an unreasonable hazard exists in the continued operation of a tramway, the board or member, after such verification of said facts as is practical under the circumstances and consistent with the public safety, may, by an emergency order require the operator of said tramway forthwith to cease using the same for the transportation of passengers. Such emergency order shall be in writing and notice thereof may be served by any person upon the operator or his agent immediately in control of said tramway by a true and attested copy of such order, the return of such service to be shown by an affidavit on the back thereof. Such emergency order shall be effective for a period not to exceed 48 hours from the time of service. Immediately after the issuance of an emergency order hereunder, the board shall conduct an investigation into the facts of the case as contemplated in RSA 225-A:19, and shall take such action under said RSA 225-A:19 as may be appropriate.
If, after investigation, the commissioner of safety or the board finds that a violation of any of the rules exists, or that there is a condition in passenger tramway construction, operation or maintenance endangering the safety of the public, either the commissioner of safety or the board shall forthwith issue a written order setting forth his or its findings, the corrective action to be taken, and fixing a reasonable time for compliance therewith. Such order shall be served upon the operator involved by registered mail, and shall become final, unless the operator shall apply to the board for a hearing in the manner hereinafter provided.
If in any such case the commissioner of safety or the board is of the opinion that the public safety would be endangered by the use of the tramway for the transportation of passengers prior to the taking of some or all of such corrective action, he or it shall so state in said order, and shall require in said order that the tramway shall not be so used until specified corrective action shall have been taken. From and after receipt of the order by the operator said tramway shall not be used for the transportation of passengers without the approval of the commissioner of safety or the board. Application for a hearing before the board shall not have the effect of suspending said order. Operation of the tramway following receipt of such order may be enjoined by the superior court.
Any such operator, who is aggrieved by any such order, may, within 10 days after the service of such order upon him as hereinbefore provided, apply to the board for a review of such order. It shall be the duty of the board to hear the same at the earliest convenient day. At such hearing the operator shall have the right to be heard personally or by counsel, to cross-examine witnesses appearing against him, and to produce evidence in his own behalf. After such hearing, the board shall report its findings in writing to the commissioner of safety and make such order as the facts may require.
Any such operator, who is aggrieved by any such post-hearing order of the board, may, within 14 days after the entry thereof, appeal therefrom to the superior court. No such appeal shall suspend the operation of the order made by the board; provided that the superior court may suspend the order of the board pending the determination of such appeal whenever, in the opinion of the court, justice may require such suspension. The superior court shall hear such appeal at the earliest convenient day and shall make such decree as justice may require.
It shall be the responsibility of the operator to maintain the following signs and designations:
General Designations. The following color code is hereby established:
Green circle: On area’s easiest trails and slopes.
Black diamond: On area’s most difficult trails and slopes.
Blue square: On area’s trails and slopes that fall between the green circle and black diamond designation.
Yellow triangle with red exclamation point inside with a red band around the triangle: Extrahazardous.
Border around a black figure in the shape of a skier inside with a band running diagonally across the sign with the word “closed” beneath the emblem: Trail or slope closed.
Orange oval: On area’s designated freestyle terrain without respect to its degree of difficulty.
Base Area; Information to Skiers and Passengers. (a) A trail board shall be maintained at a prominent location listing the ski area’s network of ski trails, slopes, tubing terrain, and designated freestyle terrain in accordance with the aforementioned color code and containing a key to the code in accordance with the above designations; said trail board shall further designate which trails, slopes, and snow tube terrain are open or closed.
(b) The ski area operator shall warn skiers and passengers by use of the trail board, if applicable, that snow grooming or snow making operations are routinely in progress on the slopes and trails serviced by each tramway.
(c) A map shall be available at all ski areas to all skiers and passengers indicating the system of ski trails, slopes, tubing terrain, and designated freestyle terrain in accordance with the color code in paragraph I.
Ski Trails and Slopes; Information and Warning to Skiers and Other Persons. (a) The operator shall mark the beginning of each alpine and nordic ski trail or slope with the appropriate symbol for that particular trail’s or slope’s degree of difficulty in accordance with RSA 225-A:23, I.
(b) The beginning of each alpine ski trail or slope is defined as the highest point of the trail or slope. Lower trail junctions and intersections may be marked with a degree of difficulty symbol.
(c) The operator shall mark the beginning of, and designated access points to, each alpine trail or slope that is closed with a sign in accordance with RSA 225-A:23, I(e). For purposes of this subparagraph, “designated access points” means the beginning of a trail, slope, or any point where an open trail crosses or intersects the closed trail as shown on the ski area’s trail board and trail map.
(d) The operator shall mark the beginning of and designated access points to terrain with the appropriate symbol in accordance with RSA 225-A:23, I(f), which sign shall warn the skier that the use of the terrain is at the skier’s own risk. Further, a sign shall be placed at each lift depicting the symbols in RSA 225-A:23, I(a)-(f) describing the trail or slope that the skier may encounter by utilizing such lift.
Nordic Ski Jumps. The operator shall provide a sign in a prominent location at or near the nordic ski jump facility, which sign shall warn the ski jumper that the use of the nordic ski jump is entirely at the ski jumper’s own risk. Further, the ski area operator shall be responsible for the design, construction, and structural maintenance of all nordic ski jumps.
It is hereby recognized that, regardless of all safety measures which may be taken by the ski area operator, skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and snowshoeing as sports, and the use of passenger tramways associated therewith may be hazardous to the skiers or passengers. Therefore:
Each person who participates in the sport of skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and snowshoeing accepts as a matter of law, the dangers inherent in the sport, and to that extent may not maintain an action against the operator for any injuries which result from such inherent risks, dangers, or hazards. The categories of such risks, hazards, or dangers which the skier or passenger assumes as a matter of law include but are not limited to the following: variations in terrain, surface or subsurface snow or ice conditions; bare spots; rocks, trees, stumps and other forms of forest growth or debris; terrain, lift towers, and components thereof (all of the foregoing whether above or below snow surface); pole lines and plainly marked or visible snow making equipment; collisions with other skiers or other persons or with any of the categories included in this paragraph.
Each skier and passenger shall have the sole responsibility for knowing the range of his or her own ability to negotiate any slope, trail, terrain, or passenger tramway. Any passenger who boards such tramway shall be presumed to have sufficient knowledge, abilities, and physical dexterity to negotiate the lift, and no liability shall attach to any operator or attendant for failure to instruct persons on the use thereof.
Each skier or passenger shall conduct himself or herself, within the limits of his or her own ability, maintain control of his or her speed and course at all times both on the ground and in the air, while skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and snowshoeing heed all posted warnings, and refrain from acting in a manner which may cause or contribute to the injury of himself, herself, or others.
Each passenger shall be the sole judge of his ability to negotiate any uphill track, and no action shall be maintained against any operator by reason of the condition of said track unless the board, upon appropriate evidence furnished to it, makes a finding that the condition of the track, at the time and place of an accident, did not meet the board’s requirements, provided however, that the ski area operator shall have had notice, prior to the accident, of the board’s requirements the violation of which is claimed to be the basis for any action by the passenger.
No skier, passenger or other person shall:
Embark or disembark upon a passenger tramway except at designated areas.
Throw or drop any object while riding on a passenger tramway nor do any act or thing which shall interfere with the running of said tramway.
Engage in any type of conduct which will contribute to cause injury to any other person nor shall he willfully place any object in the uphill ski track which may cause another to fall, while riding in a passenger tramway.
Ski or otherwise use a slope or trail which has been designated “closed” by the operator without written permission of said operator or designee.
Remove, alter, deface or destroy any sign or notice placed in the ski area or on the trail board by the operator.
Cross the uphill track of a J bar, T bar, rope tow, wire rope, or similar device except at locations approved by the board.
Ski or otherwise access terrain outside open and designated ski trails and slopes or beyond ski area boundaries without written permission of said operator or designee.
Unless an operator of a passenger tramway is in violation of this chapter or the rules of the board, which violation is causal of the injury complained of, no action shall lie against any operator by any passenger or his or her representative; this prohibition shall not, however, prevent the maintenance of an action against an operator for negligent operation, construction, or maintenance of the passenger tramway itself.
Except as limited by paragraph III, each operator of a passenger tramway shall maintain liability insurance with limits of not less than $300,000 per accident.
The requirements of paragraph II shall not apply to an operator of a passenger tramway which is not open to the general public and operated without charge to users. Nonprofit ski clubs, outing clubs, or other similar organizations, which are operators of rope or wire rope tows shall also be excepted from the requirements of paragraph II if the organization’s bylaws so provide, each member of the organization is provided with a copy of such bylaws, and use of the rope or wire rope tows operated by the organization is restricted to members of that organization. This paragraph shall not relieve the state or any political subdivision operating a rope or wire rope tow from the requirement of maintaining liability insurance in accordance with paragraph II.
No action shall be maintained against any operator for injuries to any skier or passenger unless the same is commenced within 2 years from the time of injury provided, however, that as a condition precedent thereof the operator shall be notified by certified return receipt mail within 90 days of said injury. The venue of any action against an operator shall be in the county where the ski area is located and not otherwise.
No ski area operator shall be held responsible for ensuring the safety of, or for damages including injury or death resulting to, skiers or other persons who utilize the facilities of a ski area to access terrain outside open and designated ski trails. Ski areas shall not be liable for damages, including injury or death, to persons who venture beyond such open and designated ski trails.
A ski area operator owes no duty to anyone who trespasses on the ski area property.
Any person convicted of operating a passenger tramway without having been registered by the board, or violating this chapter or rules of the board shall be guilty of a violation if a natural person, or guilty of a misdemeanor if any other person. Any operator who operates after his registration has been suspended by the board, shall be guilty of a violation for each day of illegal operation.
All season passes, including those for different age groups or military service, established by the department for the specific use of the winter facilities at Cannon Mountain aerial tramway and ski area shall be made available to any resident of this state at a 25 percent discount. For the purposes of this section, “resident of this state” means a person whose domicile is in this state. To qualify for the discount, a resident shall provide proof of residency and purchase the pass prior to December 15 of the year in which the pass becomes effective. Proof of residency shall include a state issued driver’s license; a state issued I.D. card with a photograph or information including name, sex, date of birth, height, weight and color of eyes; a United States passport; an affidavit certifying residency from the municipal clerk of the purchasers’ town or city of residence; or, for a person less than 18 years of age, proof of a parent’s or guardian’s residency provided by the resident parent or guardian. The commissioner of the department of resources and economic development shall make quarterly reports on season passes issued under this section to the senate president, the speaker of the house of representatives, and the governor and council.