Friday, February 28, 2014

The Birth of Ski Resort Uphill Policies




Today, Ski, Esq. is pleased to announce a special guest column by distinguished attorney Steven M. Grossman, Esq. Steve is a graduate of Cornell University and UVA Law School and is an associate at the firm of Sullivan and Cromwell in New York City.

As more skiers venture into the backcountry and sales of alpine touring equipment continue to rise, new challenges face ski resorts around the country.  Media coverage typically focuses on the increased pressure these skiers are placing on avalanche-prone terrain and the danger this poses to backcountry travelers.  However, increased uphill activity has also changed the relationship between skiers and resorts. 



There have always been a few passionate individuals willing to trek up the mountain to catch a few fresh turns at sunrise at their favorite local mountain.  However, it is increasingly common to see skiers zigzagging their way up the side of a resort before the lifts start to turn in the morning.  These skiers may come in contact with patrollers in what is traditionally a time for resorts to complete avalanche control work and other pre-opening safety checks.  As a result, resorts should consider enacting a comprehensive policy to address the potential risks associated with uphill travel. 



For resorts operating on public land, a wholesale ban of uphill traffic is not an option.  These resorts operate on U.S. Forest Service land under permits that require them to maintain public access.  But these permits do allow the resorts to place some restrictions on that access.  Where avalanche danger is a concern, resorts have been able to prohibit uphill traffic during resort operating dates for safety reasons. 



However, a more nuanced approach is necessary for resorts that cannot legitimately make avalanche danger claims.  When a skier purchases a lift ticket in the United States, they are consenting to a waiver (usually on the back of the ticket itself).  Such waivers typically release the resort from liability for any injuries occurring as result of the "inherent risks" of the sport.  Allowing skiers to use resort facilities without such a waiver presents an unnecessary risk for resort owners.  Many resorts allow uphill traffic only with the purchase of an uphill access pass. Such a pass, and the restrictions that come with it, give a resort greater control over the type of uphill activity on their mountain.  In Vermont, Killington resort became one of the most prominent resorts to have such a policy when it recently unveiled its Uphill Travel Program.



Uphill access passes provide significant benefits for both skiers and for resorts.  For resorts, uphill passes enable the resort to reduce its liability by incorporating waivers similar to those found on the back of a standard lift ticket or season pass.  Additionally, such passes allow the resort to establish a code of conduct for uphill travelers which minimizes interference with normal operations.  Lastly, although these passes are generally quite affordable, their sale provides some additional income for a resort.   

Skiers should embrace such policies because they provide a level of legitimacy to the activity and assure skiers that they will not be met with questions or resistance when they arrive before sunrise to catch a few morning turns at their local hill. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Salt Lake Tribune "Trib Talk" Interview

Ski, Esq. founder David B. Cronheim took part in a discussion on the Alta snowboarding lawsuit hosted by the Salt Lake Tribune. Click the link below for video of the discussion with the plaintiffs' attorneys.
 
 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Quoted: Alta Sued Over Snowboard Ban

Ski, Esq. founder David B. Cronheim was quoted in an article in yesterdays edition of First Tracks Online in a story about a lawsuit filed against Alta and the US Forest Service by a group of snowboarders.

"The Plaintiffs contend that Alta’s snowboard ban violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, but their theory is far-fetched,” opines Cronheim . ”Stated simply, snowboarders are not a protected class, so the defendants must merely show that they had a ‘rational basis’ for enacting the ban. This is a very low standard and will likely be easy for Alta and the Forest Service to meet."
 
“Alta has in the past asserted that its terrain is not conducive to snowboarding and, therefore, it only permits skiers,” Cronheim explains. “In contrast, the Plaintiffs argue that this terrain-based explanation is merely a pretext for poorly veiled animus against snowboarders. However, Alta’s ubiquitous narrow traverses are ill-suited for snowboards in many instances. Poling along the uphill or flat portions of these cat tracks is often required and when even a single person stops, the possibility of a chain reaction collision is real danger.”

“Additionally, Alta is one of the oldest ski resorts in the country so there may be a rational basis found in preserving the unique history of the resort. Either of these reasons, along with numerous others, should allow the ban to stand. The Plaintiffs’ lawsuit is almost certainly doomed to fail,” concludes Cronheim.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ski, Esq. Founder David Cronheim Interviewed About the Ivy Ski Club by the New York Ski Blog



Ski, Esq. founder David Cronheim was recently interviewed by the NY Ski Blog about the Ivy Ski Club and its decision to open a lodge for winter 2013-2014 in Warrensburg, NY. Click the link below for the full text of the interview.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Northern Michigan's Caberfae Peaks Embraces "Backcountry" Experience


Thanks to our friends at NASJA Midwest for bringing this story to Ski, Esq.'s attention.

Perhaps its the "Mount Bohemia Effect," but another Michigan resort has decided to embrace a more rugged ski experience. Northern Michigan's tiny Caberfae Peaks  (vertical: 485') will open 25+ acres of gladed terrain for 2013-2014.  Although the resort is terming the new area "backcountry terrain" it appears to be within the resort's boundary and Caberfae Peaks has done work to clear entrances and exits to the new terrain.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Jackson Ski Touring Foundation Receives Easement

Normally, Ski, Esq. focuses solely on alpine skiing, but we received an interesting press release today from the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation of Jackson, NH. The Foundation successfully negotiated with the Jackson Falls Association, a local condominium association representing 75 landlowners, for an easement to use an historic ski trail which crossed the association's property.
 
An easement is a non-posessory interest in land. One might conceptualize an easement as the right to use the land of another for a particular purpose - in this case the right to use and maintain a cross country ski trail. The use rights, however, fall short of full ownership. The advantage to an easement is that unlike mere permission to use a piece of property, which permission can be revoked by the landowner generally at will, an easement is recorded in the county's land records and runs with the land. A subsequent purchaser of the property remains bound by the easement. In granting the Foundation an easement, the association has essentially permitted cross country skiing to continue on the property permanently.
 
Due to concerns about liability, many landowners have dismissed out of hand proposals to grant similar alpine and/or cross-country easements in the past. However, there are basic protections a landowner can put in place which minimize or shift the risk to the holder of the easement. If more landowners actually took the time to explore the options available to them, many would find the risk to be negligible if addressed properly. Insurance, indemnification provisions, and sometimes even state laws can reduce liability concerns.

Homeowners and condominium associations often have large tracts of land which belond to the association members as common space. Granting easements to use portions of that space does not cost an association much, if anything and such costs could be borne by the party seeking the easement. Again, however, many associations will not even consider such arrangements.  Ski, Esq. commends the Jackson Falls Association for  being an exception and for supporting the Granite State's rich ski heritage.
 
The full press release can be found after the jump.
 


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

UPDATE: No Bids in Hidden Valley, NJ Auction

According to a report published in FirstTracksOnline, no bids were received at the auction held yesterday for the assets of Hidden Valley ski resort in Vernon, NJ. The failure of the resort to sell at auction means that operations, both this winter and in the future, are in serious jeopardy. Although over 160 bidders registered so as to be able to make a bid at the auction should they desire, none made an offer.

As Ski, Esq. reported back in September, Hidden Valley had fared badly in competition with its nearby neighbor, Mountain Creek. The resort viewed youth racing as a means to profitability, but even the influx of schussbummers apparently was not enough to keep the resort in the black.

Hidden Valley was something of an oddity in the ski resort community - a private club that was open to non-members at almost all times. Rather than season passes, the resort techincally sold "memberships." Given the public acccess the resort offered, the quirk was a difference without a meaningful distinction. However, the pending closure of Hidden Valley marks yet another failed attempt to develop a ski resort as a "club."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

David B. Cronheim Joins Fox Rothschild

Dear Loyal Ski, Esq. Readers,

I wanted to take a minute to inform you all that I have switched firms. I am now an attorney at the law firm of Fox Rothschild. I am working out of the firm's Morristown, NJ office where I will be focusing on real estate, land use matters, recreational facility law for the golf and ski industries, private club membership agreements, business law, and corporate transactions.

Should you need to contact me, the e-mail address on the right hand navigation pane is accurate. My contact information is also below:

David B. Cronheim
Fox Rothschild LLP
15 Maple Avenue
Morristown, NJ 07960
(973) 326-7117 - direct
(973) 992-9125- fax

dcronheim@foxrothschild.com
www.foxrothschild.com

Thanks for your continued support of Ski, Esq.

Regards,

David B. Cronheim
Founder/Publisher
Ski, Esq.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

NJ's Hidden Valley Ski Resort Up for Auction

Hidden Valley Trail Map (photo credit: Hidden Valley Club)

According to a report published on NorthJersey.com, Hidden Valley ski resort in Vernon, NJ is headed to the auction block. The resort's assets will be sold on October 1, 2013 to satisfy creditors. Any sale resulting from the auction is subject to approval by the US Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Link: West Mountain Bankruptcy Affects Locals

A quick but worthwhile read from Powder magazine about the bankruptcy of West Mountain (NY). While, strictly speaking, it's not a legal story it shows the human toll a bankruptcy filing can have. Click the link below for the full story.