A snowboarder was injured when she ran into a snow cat pulling a “tiller” on an open ski run.  The snowboarder had signed a release of claims when she obtained her year’s ski pass.  The release covered all claims, including of the ski operator’s negligence and specifically mentioned the risk of collision with over-snow vehicles.  In deciding whether the ski operator was grossly negligent so as to allow recovery despite the release, the trial court properly considered the risks inherent in the sport of snowboarding and whether the ski operator had departed in an egregious way from industry safety standards.  In making that determination, the trial court may consider expert declarations regarding customary practices in an arena of esoteric activity, but the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding plaintiff’s expert declarations in this case because they did not outline industry standards for operation of snow cats but simply stated a conclusion that the risk of injury was increased by the facts otherwise in the record.  The trial court correctly concluded that collision with a snow cat is an inherent risk of snowboarding and that there was no substantial evidence that the snow cat in this instance was operated in a manner that grossly departed from industry safety standards.  The snow cat was red, large, slow-moving and had flashing lights and an alarm operating at the time.  Failure to activate a turn signal before slowly turning the snow cat was not grossly negligent as the operator was observing through rear view mirrors whether skiers were nearby.

California Court of Appeal, Third District (Robie, Acting P.J.); June 27, 2018 (published July 18, 2018); 2018 Cal. App. LEXIS 638