An alternative therapist who says she fell and broke her leg due to dangerous ‘overcrowding’ at an indoor ski slope is fighting for £200,000 in compensation.
Former City worker Theresa Bates, 62, of Hornchurch, Essex, was hurt when she fell while taking a lesson at the 150ft-high Snozone centre in Milton Keynes.
She said it had ‘too many’ rookie skiers after a travellator for the training slope broke down leading to overrunning lessons and hazardous drifts of man-made snow.
Mrs Bates had plates inserted in her leg at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, leaving her on crutches for six months and badly affecting her work.
She said the slope was so busy at the time in in January 2016 that an accident was ‘reasonably foreseeable’ and more should have been done to protect her.
But lawyers for the centre’s operator, Snozone Holdings Limited, deny any negligence and the claim of overcrowding and say Mrs Bates had knowingly taken the risk of participating in a snow sport, with the ‘inherent risk’ that involves.
Outlining her case in court documents, Mrs Bates’s barrister Robert Smith said she was taking a lesson at the centre when she was injured.
She was skiing on the lesson slope, which was served by a lift and a travellator, but crucially on that day it was not working properly, repeatedly breaking down.
He said it meant skiers on that slope had to access it from one side only, causing ‘congestion’ which in turn led to lessons overrunning and drifts in the snow.
In her evidence, Mrs Bates said there were busy queues forming on and around the lift and she found herself surrounded by other skiers and snowboarders.
As she got off the lift at the top and attempted a parallel turn, her ski clipped a bank of piled up snow, she said, toppling her into a dip and leaving her with a complex fracture of her leg below the knee.
‘The area was very busy,’ said her barrister. ‘She estimated that there were approximately 100-plus individuals within the right hand ski lane.
‘There were generally too many individuals upon the slope undertaking skiing and/or snowboarding activities
‘Such overcrowding issues presented a foreseeable risk of injury which materialised. The overcrowding occurred as a result of overrunning lessons.’
Mrs Bates, who gave up a job with a City accountancy firm to train as a complementary therapist, said it was a year before she returned to full work duties.
She lists nutritional therapy, reflexology, aromatherapy, Thai herbal compress massage, holistic massage and Indian head massage among her specialisms.
Her medical experts say her long-term prognosis is ‘guarded’ and there is a risk of her needing knee replacement surgery in the future.
According to Snozone’s defence to the claim, the company denies any negligence at all, pointing out that slope inspections were carried out regularly.
The slope had not reached its 100-person capacity on that day and the company had done what it could to minimise risk to skiers.
The snow was not inadequately ‘groomed’ and Mrs Bates must have accepted the ‘inherent risk of participating in a snow sport.’
‘The defendant did have a risk assessment and reduced risk to the lowest level possible,’ the company’s lawyers say.
‘Overcrowding on the slopes is denied. The overall capacity for all the slopes on site is 280 and for the lesson slope is 100.
‘Foot fall on the day and time of the accident was recorded at 91, below the maximum.
‘She partook in a sport and as such accepted any risks involved. The defendant will rely on the disclaimer form signed by the claimant.’
The case reached Central London County Court as lawyers hammered out the details of the forthcoming trial, also arguing about whether expert ski instructors should be called to give evidence. The full trial of the claim is set to begin later this year.