Sledding season looks like it’s going to stick around Calgary a little while longer, which is great news for Calgarians young and old who get their thrills on our city’s many sledding-approved hills. It’s a fun, free way to spend an afternoon getting good exercise and enjoying the cold outdoor air. And though sledding and tobogganing can pose risks, particularly where appropriate precautions are not taken, it is an activity that will likely continue to be enjoyed by Calgary families for generations to come.

At times, though, the risks you take when sledding down an unapproved hill are greater than the rewards. This was the case last year when a teenager took his toboggan down a Calgary hill many use for sledding during our long winter months—a hill that wasn’t officially approved for sledding by the City of Calgary, but that Calgarians have been using without being ticketed or warned. When his toboggan turned backwards and he slid into a pole, it was what many call a “freak accident”—all but impossible to predict or avoid save for avoiding getting on a sled altogether—but it left him paralyzed from the neck down regardless.

Like many families in Calgary, it appears as though neither the teenager involved in this accident nor his mother knew that there were hills expressly approved by the City of Calgary for public sledding, and that these hills are regularly maintained by the city to ensure that they are free from debris and other hazards to fun-seeking tobogganers. Also like many in Calgary, they were unaware that sledding on a public hill that isn’t officially approved is a ticketable offence. While we do not have the stats on how frequently or infrequently tickets are handed out for this, the law is on the books.

This has caused some to raise the question: if the City approves certain hills for sledding, and has an allegedly unenforced law on the books that makes sledding unapproved hills a ticketable offence, is the City of Calgary liable for certain sledding injuries? Would more warnings, enforcing the law, and promoting the existence of city-approved and maintained sledding hills reduce injuries?

The law isn’t entirely black and white here. While it seems likely that more people sledding on city-maintained hills would reduce injuries, it isn’t necessarily the city’s responsibility to ensure that everyone only sleds on approved hills. It’s also hard to argue that giving tickets to Calgary tobogganers (and their parents) for using unapproved hills is something the city should be spending resources on. Regardless of the issue of liability, which is very fact-specific, we would encourage the City of Calgary to increase public awareness of appropriate and well-maintained hills for sledding and of the dangers of sledding on non-maintained hills through the use of signs and other informational campaigns.

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Have you or a family member been injured on City property, or do you have a question regarding a different type of accident or serious injury? Please contact one of our dedicated Calgary personal injury lawyers today for a free initial consultation.