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Winter recreational activities abound, but be aware of the surprising, hidden dangers

If you live in Michigan or another cold weather state but still love to be outdoors, it’s hard to ignore the allure of fun activities like skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling and other outdoor recreational options. While they do carry an element risk, these activities can generally be safely enjoyed by sober participants obeying written and common sense rules.

Still, there’s a reason you sign a recreational waiver before participating. A recreational waiver is a critical legal protection document and is used by organizations involved in offering activities that carry varying degrees of risk in order to prevent lawsuits. You’ve probably signed one many times – and did so without question. I get it. We generally sign such documents because we understand that, on the face of it, the activity is indeed risky. At the same time, there is the assumption of trust that the company or organization offering the service has taken every precaution within reason to keep participants as safe as possible. But have all precautions really been taken? Here’s why I ask.

Legitimate businesses like ski resorts and theme parks often hire young adults to direct or assist with activities like chair lifts, toboggan runs, zip-lines and other recreational adventures. From the numerous gross negligence cases I’ve handled, I see a common thread of untrained or under-trained employees, frequently college students picking up hours during school breaks, in charge of potentially dangerous activities. That’s often where the greatest danger lurks.

If you are engaging in an activity that requires a signed recreational waiver, please heed this advice. Do not participate in risky adventure activities if you encounter clueless employees, shoddy equipment or poorly maintained grounds. They can be indicators of additional unnecessary risks that can cause death or permanent harm.

Want to learn more about the state of Michigan’s safety guidelines? In 2017, zip-lines were added to the regulation guidelines of the Michigan Carnival-Amusement Safety Act, an act that aims to protect people engaging in risky adventure activities.

Vince Colella is a civil rights and personal injury attorney and partner with Moss & Colella, P.C. in Southfield, Michigan.

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