ANSI denies ACCT appeal of ANSI grant of standards to PRCA


Rockford, IL 8-30-2014
ANSI/PRCA American National Standard UPHELD
The Association for Challenge Course Technology appeal to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Board of Standard Review (BSR) regarding the ANSI/PRCA American National Standard (ANS) is denied. The ANSI/PRCA American National Standard, safety standards for Ropes Courses, Aerial Adventure Parks and Ziplines remains current and ANSI approved.
After years of accusations and appeals by the ACCT to ANSI, to have the PRCA American National Standard suspended and/or revoked, the ANSI BSR refused to suspend the approval of the ANS during the appeal period; then on August 14, 2014 the ANSI BSR issued a formal decision upholding its previous approval of the current ANSI/PRCA 1.0-.3-2014 standard as an American National Standard (March 2014).This is welcome and great news for the industry which has recently endured the tragedies of employee fatalities and has long awaited the opportunity to train and certify its own staff without having to resort to outside vendors.”It validates our hard work and the attempts to bridge our differences with ACCT over the years,” states Steve Gustafson, President of the PRCA Board of Directors. The recent ANSI BSR decision bears out the many actions taken since 2006 by the PRCA to attempt collaboration with the ACCT per as ANSI BSR October 2006 decision. These included offers to issue a joint ANS with the ACCT. Gustafson goes on to state, “We are especially pleased that our outreach efforts and thousands of volunteer hours developing these industry consensus based safety standards have been recognized and may be finally brought into the public light for the benefit of the entire industry.”ACCT had previously filed an appeal with ANSI (2006) to have the PRCA’s ANSI Accredited Standard Developer status revoked, that appeal was also denied.
(Excerpts from ANSI BSR decision letter)ANSI BOARD OF STANDARDS REVIEW (BSR)SUMMARY DECISIONIn response to the appeal filed by the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT) with the ANSI Board of Standards Review (BSR) in connection with its decision to approve PRCA 1.0-.3- 2014 Ropes Challenge Course Installation, Operation & Training Standards as an American National Standard (ANS), the ANSI BSR denies the appeal and upholds its prior decision to approve.
Represented by:
Mr. Dan Bart, Attorney & ACCT Consultant
Mr. James Borishade, Executive Director, ACCT
Mr. Don Stock, The Adventure Guild, ZIPStream Aerial AdventuresRespondent:
Represented by:
Mr. Mike Barker, VP PRCA Board of Directors
Mr. Steve Oksala, PRCA Consultant
Mr. Steve Peluso, AttorneyHearing Date: August 7, 2014
Hearing Location: ANSI, New YorkANSI Board of Standards Review Panel
Mr. Paul Bralower
Ms. Gabriella Davis
Ms. Cristine Fargo
Mr. Steve Ferguson, Chair
Ms. Megan Hayes
Ms. Pat McGuillicuddy
Ms. Nathalie Rioux

I. Introduction
ACCT (Appellant) appeals the decision of the ANSI Board of Standards Review (BSR), issued on March 3, 2014, to approve PRCA 1.0-.3-2014 Ropes Challenge Course Installation, Operation & Training Standards as an American National Standard (ANS).

An appeals hearing was held by the BSR on August 7, 2014. For the reasons set forth below, the BSR denies the appeal and upholds its prior decision to approve.

The BSR finds that ACCT has not provided sufficient or compelling evidence to warrant the withdrawal of the approval of PRCA 1.0-.3-2014 as an American National Standard. While PRCA’s standards development process necessitated corrective actions prior to the BSR’s final decision to approve, those actions were taken to the satisfaction of the BSR and we believe that due process was afforded ACCT and other participants.

Accordingly, in light of the written evidence and oral testimony presented by all parties and based on the specific discussions set forth earlier in this decision, the ANSI BSR denies the appeal and finds that its prior decision to approve PRCA 1.0-.3-2014 as an ANS was appropriate. As a result, PRCA 1.0-.3-2014 remains an approved American National Standard.

(Read the full decision here)

If you would like to purchase a copy of the ANSI/PRCA American National Standard, please visit the PRCA website and become a member or purchase a copy without membership. Once your registration is completed, you will received a licensed copy of the standard in your electronic mail.

ANSI, ASTM, PRCA, ACCT & NSAA a mess of acronyms that are fighting each other, taking your industry down and wasting money.

 How much money could have been put into promoting the industry,educating the members and creating great opportunities? Millions I bet.

 The PRCA, (Professional Ropes Course Association) recently announced that they had received approval from ANSI (American National Standards Institute) for its ropes or challenge course standards. The ACCT (Association for Challenge Course Technology) has appealed the issuance of the approval. (See ANSI/PRCA American National Standard).Wasting more time and money, in my opinion.

 In the meantime, the NSAA (National Ski Area Association) received ASTM (American Society of Testing and Materials) approval for their standards. See ASTM Committee Approves Standard For Aerial Adventure Courses

 I have no horses in this race; I have nothing to gain and more to lose with these comments. However, someone has to put it out there again, because the amount of money being wasted is ridiculous. So here goes…..again. (For a prior commentary about this feud see Stop Feuding, I doubt, move forward anyway; I think you can.)


 What’s it all mean?

First the “standards” granting organizations.

 ANSI “allows” organizations that meet its requirements to become standards granting organizations. One such organization is the ASTM. However, just because ASTM is granted the “opportunity” to create standards under the ANSI banner it does not mean that ANSI standards are better, more important or more controlling than ASTM.

 ACCT was started 19 years ago to write standards. However, in my opinion, it was more of a good buddy club and the creation of the standards did not follow any known or legally acceptable way of creating them. PRCA was started in 2003 because ACCT would not let them be the “whatever name” to do something with ropes courses or something. Honestly, I’m not 100% clear on this, and I don’t really care.

NSAA is 52 years old and has been working with ANSI and ASTM for decades. The standards for operating ski lifts are ANSI standards and the standards for the rest of the ski industry such as skis, bindings, etc., are ASTM standards. NSAA has one employee who knows more about ANSI and ASTM than I would ever want to know, and consequently, they are fast efficient and done right.

I am a member of the ASTM and on the standards committee for ropes courses, but not active and have not voted for any of the NSAAASTM, standards.

Still with me or have all the acronyms done you in.

Current Status

Right now, there are two organizations that have created standards for the ropes’ course industry, PRCA and NSAAthat follow the procedures and practice’s generally accepted in court for proof of standards by an organization. NSAA has opted to write its standards through the ASTM and the PRCA through ANSI.

ACCT is left out of the mix right now, so that organization is fighting PRCA’s ANSI standards. However, what I find comical, and indicative of the reasons for much of the wasted money in the industry, the ACCT has ignored the NSAA. (PRCA also for that matter.)

Speculation here, but don’t you think that if ACCT seriously thought only its standards were acceptable they would be appealing the NSAA’s standards created under the ASTM.

This leads me to believe that the appeal of the PRCA’s ANSI standards has nothing to do with the standards, just with the PRCA. (This is the third appeal of the PRCA’s ANSI standards; the ACCT lost the first two.)

By that I mean there is more bad blood here than in a blood bank with no power for a month.

So Legally what does that Mean?

Standards are the lowest acceptable level of doing something, which is presented in court to prove someone either met the standard or did not meet the standard of care. The standard of care is the measurement against which the jury determines whether you had a duty and then breached that duty to someone.

If you own a ropes course and someone is injured on the ropes course, the plaintiff now has several different ways to prove that you were negligent (breached the standard of care). Meaning your ropes course was not built correctly, or you operated the course incorrectly.)

First, there are the ACCT standards; however, those can easily be ignored at this point because they have not been approved by either the ANSI or the ASTM. The ACCT standards are getting better, I’ve been told, but basically, they were created in a way that creates credibility issues. That does not mean that they can’t be a way to prove you are negligent.

So now the plaintiff can argue that you failed to meet the PRCA or NSAA standards. If there is a conflict between the two, then the plaintiff has found the stick to beat more money out of you and your insurance company. (And the last thing this industry needs is a way to give more money away. (See: Payouts in Outdoor Recreation.)

Legal Advice (worth what you pay for it)

If you came to me and asked for advice about this situation this is what I recommend.

1.   Today, get a copy of the PRCA and NSAA (ANSI and ASTM) standards and make sure you meet those standards. Yes, both sets. If there is a conflict between the two, justify why you have adopted one over the other in writing now, prior to a problem.

2.   Every year have someone new come see your course. They don’t have to have some designation on their wall, unless it says architect or engineer (see below!). They should have experience to look at your course and your operation and make sure you are not making mistakes. Maybe trade off. You go to their course, and they come to your course.

a.   Don’t have them give you a report, which is just proof you are negligent.

b.   Don’t tell them why you do something, unless they ask.

c.   Listen, listen to everything they suggest, ask questions and then see what you need to do.

3.   Every couple of years have an engineer, architect, or contractor came out and look at your course. These are the people who know how courses should be built and have the education and experience to make sure it was built correctly and is still holding together.

a.   Someone with 12 years in the industry may be able to tell you the testing strength of a bolt and whether the bolt and whatever it is attached to are working still. However, that knowledge is defeated with a degree from a college that says engineer or architect.

Pay attention, (If nothing else for the laughs.) and make sure you know what is going on because you as a ropes course owner or manager are the person that is going to take the beatings and suffer the most when the organizations created to support you spend your money fighting each other.

Good luck.

If nothing else I should get a plug for explaining all the acronyms in the industry!

For more articles on Ropes Courses see:

 $400,000 challenge course settlement for shattered ankle

 Architects, Engineers and Recreation, we need the first two, to be successful in the second

 Assumption of the risk is used to defeat a claim for injuries on a ropes course

 Based on the article yes there was going to be a lawsuit

 Plaintiff raised argument in work/team building situation that they were forced to sign release

 Plaintiff uses standards of ACCT to cost defendant $4.7 million

 Sad, Arizona school insurance no longer covering ropes courses.     

 The standard of care for a ropes or challenge course changes based on who is running it and who is using it (30)                                                                             

 When did journalism turn from telling a good factual story to trying to place blame for an accident?  

 What do you think? Leave a comment.

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 Copyright 2014 Recreation Law (720) 334-8529





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ANSI/PRCA American National Standard


12.jpgZiplines, Canopy Tours, Ropes Courses and Aerial Adventure Parks;

Now governed by a NEW ANSI National Standard


Popular Adventure Activities Are Governed by a New StandardThe Professional Ropes Course Association Announces ANSI Approved American National Standards for Ziplines, Rope Challenge Courses, Canopy Tours and Aerial Adventure Parks.

Professional Ropes Course Association (PRCA)

Rockford, Illinois

Contacts: Steven Gustafson, President of the PRCA, (815) 637-2969(815) 637-2969
Michael Barker, Vice President of the PRCA, (203) 464-9784(203) 464-9784

March 17, 2014


Popular Adventures: Ziplines, Canopy Tours, Ropes Courses and Aerial Adventure Parks are Now governed by a new ANSI National Standard


ANSI APPROVED National Standards Provide much needed Safety Guidance for the Largely Self-Regulated Industry

The standard Enables course owners and managers to conduct in-house training and Certify their own staff

On March 7, 2014 the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) announced (pg 17) their approval of the first consensus-based American National Standard for construction, inspection, maintenance and employee training/certification governing the Zipline, Canopy Tour, Ropes Challenge Course and Aerial Adventure Parks industry. The Professional Ropes Course Association (PRCA), the ANSI Accredited Standards Developer, will manage the new ANSI-PRCA Standards as Secretariat. 10.jpg

Says Mike Barker, Vice President of the PRCA Board of Directors: “This new ANSI Standard provides a consistent reference and much needed safety guidance for State Regulators, Inspectors, Insurers and Industry Professionals.” He adds, “Moreover, this standard enables course and tour owners/managers to conduct their own in-house training, certify their own staff and designate qualified persons to conduct course inspections – expensive services that previously required performance by a limited national vendor pool that couldn’t adequately service the entire industry.”

Steve Gustafson, President of the PRCA adds: “ANSI standards are subjected to an extensive vetting process, including consensus involvement by materially affected parties in the standards development process.” He adds, “The Professional Ropes Course Association (PRCA) is the Accredited Standards Developer and Secretariat of the ANSI approved Standards. Having worked for the past nine years to develop the standard, I’m proud of this accomplishment. The positive contributions that this standard brings to benefit safety for the public and for our industry are huge!”

The PRCA became the first ANSI Accredited Standards Developer (pg 17) for Ropes Courses, Ziplines, Canopy Tours and Aerial Adventure Parks in 2005. This accreditation ensures that the PRCA’s process for the development of the new standard was in compliance with ANSI Essential Requirements (E.R.) which include openness, lack of dominance, balance of industry representation, coordination and harmonization, transparency, public input, and avoid conflict or duplication of other previously announced candidate or published ANS.

Based on ANSI findings that no other candidate standards or ANS had been published to date for the industry, the PRCA Project Initiation Notification (PINS) was accepted and published by ANSI (pg 14). Since that time, the PRCA Candidate ANS underwent one informal and three (including the changes review) formal public review periods. Hundreds of volunteers presented over one thousand comments for consideration and review. During this process, the PRCA Consensus Body harmonized the Candidate ANS with European Standards, Australia/NZ Standards, ASTM, and other standards and regulations as needed. To further foster harmonization and balance, the PRCA offered the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT) the opportunity to join with the PRCA and publish a joint standard, with fifty/fifty shared roles and profit sharing splits in addition to three voting positions on the PRCA Consensus Body, and one voting position on the continuous Standards Management Committee. On repeated occasions ACCT refused all offers of participation in the process.

It is the PRCA’s understanding that ACCT has chosen to file an appeal with ANSI per the appeal process afforded to all persons who have completed a standard developer’s appeal process. ACCT must show proof that ANSI did not follow their own procedures when approving the American National Standard. Further, ACCT states that they filed a successful appeal last July with the PRCA. This is partly true, yet disingenuous. While the ACCT appeal was granted on one out of three issues, this only meant that the PRCA had to clarify the fee structure for the PRCA appeal process, allowing interested parties an opportunity to file their appeals for a second time. This was conducted and no appeals were filed. In two previously filed appeals, both independent appeals panels found in favor of the PRCA stating that the procedures had been followed. This then cleared the way for the PRCA to submit the candidate standard for consideration this year, which was ultimately approved by ANSI as the American National Standard for the industry.

While the ACCT and others have the right to appeal and make accusations of an inability to participate, facts point to numerous invitations and public notices placed on industry listservs, the PRCA website, emails to the ACCT’s leadership and all of the ACCT PVM’s, emails to other materially affected Associations (BSA, ACA, GSA, etc), and published in the ANSI Standards Action Newsletter, to review and comment on the candidate standard, participate on the Consensus Body, and serve on the Standards management Committee or even participate in a joint standard. These facts go directly to an October 2006 decision by ANSI, whereas ANSI instructed the PRCA to view the ACCT as a materially affected Association and for both associations to make good faith efforts to harmonize with the ACCT in cooperative standard development. The PRCA did honor and respect ANSI’s decision by offering to share in a joint standard and serve on the PRCA Consensus Body, the ultimate gesture of goodwill and harmonization. Now, the ACCT must explain to ANSI why it has barred the PRCA from their process and other of their actions; and perhaps they will have to address their industry controlling actions of years past.

Meanwhile, the ANSI/ PRCA 1.0-.3 – 2014 stands as the ANSI approved American National Standards while any ACCT ANSI level appeal is conducted. This is now between ACCT and ANSI.

If you want more information on the American National Standard, what it is, the processes involved, how it applies, how it relates to the old PRCA and ACCT standards and how it saves you money go to and click on Frequently Asked Questions on the 11.gif

American National Standard ANSI/PRCA 1.0-.03 – 2014

If your materially affected association would like to serve on the PRCA Standards management Committee or if you just want more information, please contact us at info

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Good record keeping proves defendant ski area did not operate lift improperly

Tone v. Song Mountain Ski Center, et al., 37 Misc. 3d 1217A; 2012 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 5136; 2012 NY Slip Op 52069U

Plaintiff’s case is hard to prove when two other people exit the lift properly from the same chair.

Plaintiff was riding a triple lift at the defendant’s ski area with her nine-year-old son and her ex-husband. She became entangled with her son’s skis and remained on the lift after her son, and ex-husband exited the lift. She then exited the lift before the lift hit the safety gate, falling and injuring herself.

A safety gate is a trip mechanism which stops the lift because a rider still on the lift trips it. It is designed to stop the lift if someone fails to exit the lift.

The plaintiff was an experienced intermediate skier. She owned her own skis, and boots had skied more than fifty times and had ridden the lift twice the day she was injured.

After the accident, the plaintiff completed and signed an “incident report form.” The form indicated she had stayed on the lift to allow her son to get off the lift. When she jumped she jumped 6 feet and landed on her left hip.

Prior to the accident, the lift was inspected by the New York Department of Labor and found to be in good condition. The lift met all standards as developed by ANSI (American National Standards Institute). The standards say a triple (obviously fixed grip) chair lift can travel a maximum of five hundred feet per minute (5 miles per hour). This lift was traveling between 400 and 500 feet per minute at the time.

The lift attendant’s daily log was up to date and indicated that everything was operating correctly on the lift. The lift

…fully checked on that date to ensure that all systems were working properly. The stops switches and safety gate were working, the ramps were snow covered and at a proper grade, the phones were working properly and the counter weight on the lift was clear and within normal limits.

One key point the court pointed out was simple. The plaintiff’s husband and son exited the lift with no problems. If the lift was not operating correctly they should have had problems getting off the lift also.

Summary of the case

The court reviewed the defenses and found that nothing was wrong with the lift. The plaintiff did not have an expert witness or any witness who could testify that the lift failed to operate properly. The court quickly dismissed the plaintiff’s claims that the lift failed to operate properly, and the ski area failed to operate the lift properly.

The claims were not supported by the plaintiff with any evidence.

The court looked at the New York statutes concerning skiing GOL §18-102 and GOL §18-104. The NY statute GOL §18-102 covers the duties of passengers who requires a passenger to familiarize themselves with the safe use of any lift prior to using it. GOL §18-104 states

A ski area operator is relieved from liability for risks inherent in the sport of downhill skiing, including the risks associated with the use of a chair lift when the participant is aware of, appreciates and voluntarily assumes the risk.

The court found that the plaintiff failed to comply with the requirements of the skiing code by disembarking at the appropriate location and therefore, assumed the risk of her accident.

The plaintiff’s final argument was a prior case that had been sent back to the trial court because the lift attendant had failed to stop the lift when a mother and son’s ski equipment became entangled. In that case, the court found the son had been yelling and was excited. The plaintiff’s expert witness testified that there was time for the lift attendant to see the child in distress and stop the lift.

Here the court found that no one had indicated to the lift attendant that there were in distress so therefore the lift attendant had no obligation to stop the lift.

So Now What?

The ski area followed all standards and kept great records concerning the lift. The records proved that nothing was wrong with the lift at the time of the accident.

The ski area could prove, through records that it exceeded the requirements or standards for training lift attendants.

Finally, the plaintiff simply failed to present any evidence that the defendant had breached any duty to it.

Simply put, if you have a requirement to keep records, you better do an excellent job of keeping records. The resort’s records were up to date and covered every claim the plaintiff argued.


Plaintiff: Christina J. Tone and Steven Tone


Defendant: Song Mountain Ski Center and South Slope Development Corp. and their Agents, Servants and Employees, and Peter Harris, Individually and d/b/a Song Mountain Ski Center, and Individually as a member, officer, share-holder and director of South Slope Development Corp. and Song Mountain Ski Center


Plaintiff Claims: defendant failed to operate the lift correctly and the lift did not operate correctly and the lift attendants were not properly trained.


Defendant Defenses: Lift operated and was designed correctly and plaintiff assumed the risk.


Holding: Summary judgment granted for the defendant.

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Tone v. Song Mountain Ski Center, et al., 37 Misc. 3d 1217A; 2012 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 5136; 2012 NY Slip Op 52069U

Tone v. Song Mountain Ski Center, et al., 37 Misc. 3d 1217A; 2012 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 5136; 2012 NY Slip Op 52069U

Christina J. Tone and Steven Tone, Plaintiffs, against Song Mountain Ski Center and South Slope Development Corp. and their Agents, Servants and Employees, and Peter Harris, Individually and d/b/a Song Mountain Ski Center, and Individually as a member, officer, shareholder and director of South Slope Development Corp. and Song Mountain Ski Center, Defendants.



37 Misc. 3d 1217A; 2012 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 5136; 2012 NY Slip Op 52069U

November 2, 2012, Decided


CORE TERMS: lift, chair lift, attendant, skis, skier, mountain, chairlift, skiing, triple, gate, inspection, ski lift, ski area, training, riding, slowed, feet, ramp, snow, speed, deposition testimony, issue of fact, deposition, ex-husband, passenger, downhill, tramway, sport, safe, top


[*1217A] Negligence–Assumption of Risk–Skier Injured on Chair Lift.



JUDGES: Donald A. Greenwood, Supreme Court Justice.

OPINION BY: Donald A. Greenwood


The defendants have moved for summary judgment dismissal of the complaint against them, which alleges that the plaintiff suffered a fractured hip at Song Mountain on February 25, 2007 while attempting to exit a chair lift. The defendants move for dismissal on the grounds that all of the evidence shows that the ski lift was properly designed and operated and that the plaintiff assumed the risk of her injury.

As the proponent of the motion, the defendants are required to establish their entitlement to dismissal as a matter of law through the tender of admissible evidence. See, Hunt v. Kostarellis, 27 AD3d 1178, 810 N.Y.S.2d 765 (4th Dept. 2006). The defendants have done so here through their [***2] reliance, inter alia, on the plaintiff’s deposition testimony. The plaintiff testified that she was skiing with her nine year old son at the time and that she was an intermediate level skier with approximately fifteen years of experience. She owned her own skis and boots and had skied more than fifty times. [**2] On the date of the accident, she took two runs down the mountain and on both occasions rode the triple chair lift without incident. On her third occasion up the mountain she again rode the triple chair lift. Her son was with her, as was her ex-husband. Plaintiff testified that she sat on the right side of the chair, her son sat in the middle and the ex-husband sat on the left side. According to plaintiff, while riding up the chair lift she noticed that her skis were crossed with her son’s skis, so she let her son get off the chair lift first. Her ex-husband also got off the chair lift, but plaintiff waited. During her deposition, the plaintiff was shown the “Incident Report Form” completed at the time, which she signed. The form indicates that plaintiff said that she let her son get off first because their skis were crossed and that “I waited too late, and when I jumped approximately 6 feet, landed on my left hip.” When asked at her deposition what she did after her son got off, she responded that she did not remember, that she did not recall trying to get off, but that it happened so quickly that when the chairlift made its turn she “just flew off.”

The defendants also rely upon an [**3] inspection report completed by the Department of Labor on December 12, 2006, two months before the accident. An inspection of the chairlift was conducted by the Industry Inspection Bureau. Two violations unrelated to the design of the lift or exit ramp were found at that time and two unrelated violations were subsequently determined. Defendants note, however, that no deficiencies were found with respect to the design of the lift or exit ramp, the speed of the lift, or the location of the safety gate on the lift.

In addition, the defendants rely upon New York State regulations referenced in the Department of Labor inspections and standards promulgated by the American National Standards Institute which address industry wide safety standards for a variety of products and industries. Those regulations provide that the maximum relative carrier speed in feet per minute for chair lifts states that a triple chairlift carrying skiers may travel at a maximum speed of five hundred feet per minute. Defendants also provide an affidavit of Peter Harris, the President of South Slope Development Corporation, the operator of Song Mountain. Harris indicates that the chairlift traveled at a maximum speed [**4] of four hundred to five hundred feet per minute, which is equal to less than five miles per hour. He also claims that plaintiff failed to depart from the chairlift at the appropriate time, despite being warned by the unload signs. In addition, he indicates that the lift has certain safety mechanisms and if the plaintiff was to stay on the lift as it turned around the bull wheel heading downhill, her skis would hit the safety gate, which would stop the lift and allow for a safe evacuation of the lift. Plaintiff instead jumped from the lift before the safety gate, resulting in her being injured. He notes that the design of the lift specifically would have prevented the injury if she had remained on it, and the fact that the lift operated property is demonstrated by the fact that of the three people on the lift, two of them exited the lift in accordance with proper procedure and were not injured.

Defendants have also established in the first instance that any argument that the lift attendants were not properly trained is without merit, since Harris testified at his deposition that Song Mountain uses an industry standard lift operating training program designed by the National Ski Areas [**5] Association and that the program includes an in depth training DVD, training [***3] manuals and tests. The defendants also rely upon the deposition testimony of Carl Blaney, a long time attendant, who testified that the lift attendants took annual quizzes prior to the start of the season in order to demonstrate that they understood their duties in operating the lifts. It is also argued that plaintiff’s contention that the lift should have been slowed because plaintiff’s nine year old son was riding is incorrect. Blaney testified that the lift would not have been slowed for that reason, nor is there any evidence that simply because a child is riding the lift that it should be slowed. Defendants also point to the lift attendant’s daily log for the date of the accident, which demonstrates that the triple chair lift was fully checked on that date to ensure that all systems were working properly. The stops switches and safety gate were working, the ramps were snow covered and at a proper grade, the phones were working properly and the counter weight on the lift was clear and within normal limits. It is argued that since all of the evidence demonstrates that the lift was operating properly, the [**6] cause of the accident was solely plaintiff’s failure to disembark at the appropriate location, followed by her failure to remain seated once she missed the off load ramp. The defendants have met their burden in establishing that since there is no evidence that they improperly maintained the ski lift or that it was negligently designed, plaintiff cannot make a showing that the risks to her were increased or hidden. See, Sontag v. Holiday Valley, Inc., 38 AD3d 1350, 832 N.Y.S.2d 705 (4th Dept. 2007); see also, Painter v. Peek’n Peak Recreation, Inc., 2 AD3d 1289, 769 N.Y.S.2d 678 (4th Dept. 2003).

The defendants have also met their burden in the first instance of establishing that the plaintiff assumed the risk of her injury. Defendants point to the General Obligations Law, which addresses safety in skiing. The triple chair lift is identified as a “passenger tramway”, a mechanical device intended to transport skiers for the purpose of providing access to ski slopes and trails as defined by the Commissioner of Labor… See, GOL §18-102. Under “duties of passengers” the following are listed: to familiarize themselves with the safe use of any tramway prior to its use and…to board or disembark from passenger tramways only at [**7] points or areas designated by the ski area operator. See, GOL §18-104; see also, 12 NYCRR 54.4(a). A ski area operator is relieved from liability for risks inherent in the sport of downhill skiing, including the risks associated with the use of a chair lift when the participant is aware of, appreciates and voluntarily assumes the risk. See, DeLacy v. Catamount Development Corp., 302 AD2d 735, 755 N.Y.S.2d 484 (3rd Dept. 2003). In assessing whether one injured in the course of participating in a sporting or recreational event has assumed the risk posed by an assuredly dangerous condition, the critical inquiry is whether that condition is unique, constituting a hazard over and above the usual dangers that are inherent in the sport. See, Simoneau v. State of New York, 248 AD2d 865, 669 N.Y.S.2d 972 (3rd Dept. 1998), citing, Morgan v. State of New York, 90 NY2d 471, 685 N.E.2d 202, 662 N.Y.S.2d 421 (1997). Defendants have established that plaintiff was an experienced skier and had skied extensively at Song Mountain. It is further argued that the plaintiff assumed the risk of her injury by failing to comply with the requirements of the safety and skiing code by disembarking at the appropriate location. Plaintiff testified that she failed to get off the lift [**8] at the dismount area and had she stayed on she would have tripped the safety gate, which would have stopped the lift automatically. Inasmuch as the defendants have met their burden in the first instance, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to raise an [***4] issue of fact. See, Hunt, supra.

The plaintiff points to a recent Fourth Department case where the plaintiff skier was riding a chair lift with her son, a snow boarder. Plaintiff’s skis became entangled with the snow board and her son panicked and began yelling that he could not untangle the skis, despite frantic attempts. See, Miller v. Holiday Valley, Inc., 85 AD3d 1706, 925 N.Y.S.2d 785 (4th Dept. 2011). Plaintiff’s son exited the lift, but he pulled the plaintiff out of the lift chair in the process and she was injured. See, id. Plaintiff alleged that the top lift attendant should have slowed or stopped the lift because she and her son reached the unloading area. See, id. The court found that a question of fact existed as to whether the alleged failure to operate the ski lift in a safe manner was a proximate cause of the accident. See, id. In so finding, the court noted plaintiff’s deposition testimony that her son was yelling and making frantic attempts [**9] to untangle the skis and snow board and that plaintiff’s expert relied on that testimony in concluding that “the top lift attendant had sufficient time to observe plaintiff’s distress and to engage in what defendant’s night lift operation supervisor characterized as the exercise of judgment to slow or stop the lift.” Id. Defendants correctly argue that there is no evidence in the present case that plaintiff and her son caused any type of commotion prior to reaching the unloading area or tried to alert the attendant in any way for the top lift attendant to have noticed they were having any difficulty. The plaintiff has failed to come forward with proof in admissible form as in Miller, supra. that either the ski lift operator saw or should have seen that the plaintiff was in distress. Nor does plaintiff provide an expert opinion that based upon the facts here, the operator had time to take an action that would have prevented plaintiff’s fall. Plaintiff has likewise failed to raise an issue of fact as to whether she assumed the risk of her injury. Plaintiff does not dispute her experience as a skier or that she was familiar with the subject lift, as required by law. See, GOL §18-104; see [**10] also, 12 NYCRR §54.4. Nor has she submitted evidence to raise an issue of fact as to whether the defendants “created a dangerous condition over and above the usual dangers inherent in the sport of [downhill skiing]” Bennett v. Kissing Bridge Corporation, 17 AD3d 990, 794 N.Y.S.2d 538 (4th Dept. 2005), quoting, Owen v. RJS Safety Equip., 79 NY2d 967, 591 N.E.2d 1184, 582 N.Y.S.2d 998 (1992); see also, Miller, supra, quoting, Sontag, supra.

The plaintiff has also failed in her burden with respect to whether the lift attendants were properly trained, and in fact points to the National Ski Area’s Association Training completed by defendant’s employees. Nor has the plaintiff raised an issue as to whether the lift was properly operating on the day of the accident. Plaintiff has not disputed the inspection reports or the defendants’ compliance with the requisite regulations.

NOW, therefore, for the foregoing reasons, it is

ORDERED, that the defendant’s motion for summary judgment dismissal is granted.


Dated: November 2, 2012

Syracuse, New York


Supreme Court Justice [***5]

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Stop Feuding, I doubt, move forward anyway, I think you can.

The Challenge/Ropes Course Industry is still fighting after all these years……it is a very sad song.

The challenge course, or as it was known in its beginning, the ropes’ course industry, is still setting itself up to be sued, successfully sued. My calculations show they have had judgments and settlements in excess of $5.1 million. See Payouts in Outdoor Recreation. Not included in those calculations are another $3.1 million that I learned of that was a settlement this past summer (2011). In 10 years, the industry has had $8.2 million in pay outs based upon my research. Who knows how much more has been paid that is confidential settlements or judgments I can’t find.

In my opinion, a major part of the problem is standards. Which is probably why they are losing these suits and why the industry is a mess?

There are two separate groups writing standards for the industry. Neither of those groups is part of the ASTM, both are trying to become ANSI standard setting organizations.

Standards for things; bolts, screws, wood, concrete are already done by the ASTM.  Those are great standards, created correctly and are needed by this industry. Those standards are always going to trump anything the ropes’ course industry does. Consequently, ignoring that is a joke. For things (anything without a personality) refer to and adopt the ASTM standards.

Any standard that recreates or redoes the standards established by the ASTM is 1) a waste of time and 2) only a way to create litigation. The ASTM standard is going to be controlling. If the standard created by an industry association is lower than the ASTM standard or even different, the standard will be violated because the ASTM will be controlling.

For any cables/wire, the European standards for ski lifts control. Those standards on wire have been around for almost 100 years and are great. Again, this is a monster waste of time and energy to create something that does not matter.

For people, get rid of those standards. People make mistakes, not concrete. If it can make a mistake, dump the standard attached to it. For more on this issue see Trade Association Standards sink a Summer Camp when a plaintiff uses them to prove Camp was negligent, Expert Witness Report: ACA “Standards” are used by Expert for the Plaintiff in a lawsuit against a Camp, and ACA “Standards” are used by Expert for the Plaintiff in a lawsuit against a Camp

Here is what the National Ski Area Association says about standards: See NSAA and standards. Understand that the lifts have standards but the ski areas do not. The NSAA is like 99% of the rest of the trade associations in the world; they know that writing standards is a legal nightmare.

What you should do.

If you are part of the ropes’ course industry, you need to protect yourself from the problems created by these dual standards. Get both sets of standards and create reasons why you are not following specific ones. That way in advance, you protect yourself. Be specific, not just it does not apply and do not use the word money or cost unless you can show a better way that may be cheaper.

Resolution of the issues for the Standards

There are several options on how to resolve the problem.

1.     One group can get to the ANSI, finish up and have “standards.” However, this will only work if the other group, then drops its standards. One group has indicated they will not. Can you think of this getting any worse that would occur?

2.     Eliminate both sets of “standards” and start gain from scratch. Go to the ASTM and set up a committee to set up standards and adopt all the ASTM ones that are done. What is left can be written at that point. I suspect that will be a short piece of paper.

I believe this alternative has the best legal benefits.

3.     Find six people who are not vested in winning. It is too small of a job for anything less, and I don’t think you can find eight impartial people with respect to the groups.  They should go through each standard and write down the best one and move on. I would give them standards that are not identified as to who created which ones. All they are working with is words on paper, not logos or IDs.

If you want to see where standards can go too far read this article:  Playgrounds will be flat soon. No city can meet the playground standards with the current budgets they have to work with.

Do Something

If you are part of this industry, good luck. There are a lot of great people in the industry; however,  a lot of them have drunk the cool-aid from one group or another and cannot see past their respective “turf.”

Until the standards for operations are gone and there is only one set of standards for the industry, it will be a plaintiff’s playground.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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