PORTLAND, Ore. — Mount Hood Skibowl in Oregon will keep cyclists off its forested trails this summer after losing a lawsuit from a man who said he slammed into a signpost and was paralyzed from the waist down.
A Multnomah County jury awarded $11.4 million to Gabriel B. Owens this spring after the cyclist’s lawyers said he hit a rut and collided with a wooden sign installed next to the double black-diamond Cannonball bike trail on July 31, 2016.
Owens, 43, settled the case for $10.5 million after the ski resort’s lawyers threatened to appeal the jury verdict, which could have tied up the money for years, according to Owens’ lawyer, Gretchen Mandekor.
The ski resort should have installed collapsible markers at the trail crossing, Mandekor said during the trial, likening the trail’s condition to “a speed bump on a highway” that caused the former pro-cyclist to lose control of his bike.
In an undated statement on its website, Mount Hood Skibowl called the verdict “unprecedented” and said it would temporarily suspend mountain bike operations this summer.
“After 32 years without a serious mountain bike claim of any kind, the winds have shifted,” the company said. “Eliminating all risks with recreational activities — especially in downhill mountain biking through forests at high speed — is something that is just not possible.”
KGW spoke to local mountain biker John Mahoney about the decision. He said he normally bikes on the trails at Skibowl multiple times every summer.
"It's never a good thing when there's injuries in sports that you like, and safety is the number one thing," he said. "With that said there's always a risk.
As for the future, Skibowl vice president and general manager Mike Quinn said he's not sure what the future holds for the bike trails at the resort.