Jackson Ski Resort, Rental Company Say 'Catastrophic' Crash Was Skier's Fault, Not Theirs

A Jackson, Wyoming, ski resort and a rental company, along with a ski equipment manufacturer, all say it's not their fault a ski binding burst and caused a Texas woman to crash down the mountain and suffer serious injuries.

Clair McFarland

June 08, 20234 min read

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

A federal judge Wednesday scheduled a jury trial for next year to decide whether a Jackson ski resort and ski-boot manufacturer caused a Texas woman’s “catastrophic” wreck and injuries because of a faulty ski binding.  

Both the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and ski-rental shop Hoback Sports filed arguments last month saying the blown ski binding wasn’t their fault, and skiers assume their own risks under Wyoming law.   

HEAD USA Inc., the sports-gear manufacturer, last month also denied claims Pam Schoen and her husband Chad Fields made in a March lawsuit. The manufacturer said it had no control of the binding after it left its facilities.   

The 400-Foot Plunge  

Fields and Schoen are a Texas couple who sued the three companies in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming in March, asking for at least $75,000, with a jury to determine exact damages at trial.   

Schoen alleges in the complaint that she’s an experienced skier and has been skiing since she was 3 years old. On her anniversary trip two years ago, she was 45 and in good health.   

She plunged down the Sundog ski run at the Jackson resort March 15, 2021. She turned right, then left. When she attempted a second right turn, the lawsuit alleges, the binding blew off her left ski and sailed about 10-15 feet in the air, causing her left boot to come off the ski.   

Her left knee “immediately twisted and buckled,” she fell onto her left shoulder, and tumbled and twisted about 400 feet down the mountain with her right ski still attached to her right boot, according to the complaint.   

“Schoen sustained serious, disabling and permanent personal injuries,” the complaint alleges, “for which she has received medical treatment and for which she has incurred necessary and reasonable medical care, treatment expense and will incur future medical expense based upon a reasonable degree of medical probability.”  

At Your Own Risk  

The rental shop and ski resort invoked three Wyoming laws in their May 10 response to the lawsuit.   

Statute 1-1-123 says that skiers accept and assume “the inherent risks of skiing and (are) legally responsible for damage, injury or death” from choosing to participate in the sport.   

Piggybacking off that, the companies cite statute 1-1-109, which says juries can hold people comparably at fault, who are responsible for risks when those risks are realized.   

Lastly, the companies cited 34-19-107 and its earlier definitions in law, which says a person using another person’s land for recreational purposes — including winter sports — assumes the inherent risks and is liable for damages, including to oneself.   

Who Has The Binding

The manufacturer HEAD USA in its May 1 response to the lawsuit also cited 1-1-123, and said it didn’t have any control over the ski binding when it left the company’s facilities.   

“(Schoen’s) alleged injuries and damages, if any, were the result of (her) own negligence, carelessness, inattention or otherwise wrongful and unsafe acts,” HEAD alleges in its response, adding that “third parties” also could have caused the binding to burst.   

U.S. District Court Judge Alan B. Johnson on Wednesday filed a scheduling order, setting the jury trial for Oct. 21, 2024, in Cheyenne.   

Clair McFarland can be reached at clair@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter