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May 24, 2022

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Mt. Hood Skibowl bans mountain bikes after losing lawsuit

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PORTLAND — Mt. 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, The Oreogonian/OregonLive reported.

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, Mt. 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.”

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