Skiing & Snowboarding Expert Witness Defends Ski Areas

Are skiiers responsible for the injuries they suffer? Kenny Salvini, 23, became paralyzed from the neck down after a jump in 2004 at the Summit on Snoqualmie, WA. Nine days later ski instructor Peter Melrose died at the foot of the same jump. Jasper Shealy, skiing and snowboarding expert witness defends the ski industry. reports:

In 2007, a King County jury found the Summit at Snoqualmie liable for just less than half of Salvini’s pain, suffering and lasting paralysis, levying $14 million in damages against the ski area. The judgment — described by one group representing ski areas as a “runaway jury verdict” — came as a shock to the industry, which, in the past two decades, has largely received legal protection from skiers hurt on the hills. Jasper Shealy, a retired engineering professor often hired as an expert witness by the ski industry, called the assertion that ski area managers can design safer jumps “a naive notion.” Salvini’s injuries were unfortunate but, Shealy contended, occurred because he hit the jump too fast. In Shealy’s view, suggested engineered fixes underestimate a skier’s impact of flight and the variability of snow.

“The problem here is you’re not dealing with something like steel or iron or concrete. You’re dealing with a very malleable, changeable substance,” said Shealy, speaking from his Rochester, N.Y., office. “Even if we had some magic formula — and frankly I don’t believe there is one — within a day or two the jump is likely to be very different.”